Former dean at the University of California San Diego (UCSD), Dr. Thomas McAfee, 58, tragically passed away on Saturday after being trampled by elephants while on vacation in Tanzania. McAfee was three days away from starting his new job as the chief executive officer at University of Southern California's Keck Medical Center.

McAfee, who started as first physician-in-chief at UCSD Health Sciences in 2002, also served as the chief executive officer for UCSD Faculty Practices. His family has been informed of the tragic incident, and his body is currently being held in east Africa pending death certificate approval.

“It is with regret and personal sadness that we inform you that Dr. Thomas McAfee, until very recently, the Dean of Clinical Affairs for UC San Diego Health Sciences and CEO for UC San Diego Faculty Practice, was killed in an accident while on vacation in Africa. We have no other details at present,” read an e-mail issued by McAfee’s colleagues from UCSD.

“Dr. McAfee served us and worked alongside us for more than 11 years, and his death is a great loss – both to many of us personally, and to the field of health care which would have benefited enormously from his talent and dedication in coming years.”

The incident occurred in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania’s sixth largest national park spanning 1,100 square miles, the Daily Mail reported. African elephants rarely attack people without being provoked; however, the 15,000-lb. animal has been known to aggressively defend its youngsters.

According to the National Geographic Channel documentary Elephant Rage, 500 people are killed by elephant attacks each year, while 1,000 elephants are killed by poachers for food and ivory each year. Elephant populations in Africa dropped from 1.3 million in 1970 to 600,000 by 1989.

“It’s a true tragedy and great loss to all of us at UCSD. We are planning several events in celebration of Dr. McAfee's life,” Mounir Soliman, assistant vice chancellor and executive director of Health Sciences International at UC San Diego, told NBC San Diego.