“It was a totally unexpected shock that scared me and made my blood run cold,” said Joburg mother of two Dina Carvalho describing the traumatic experience of meeting the giraffe, Gerald, at Glen Afric, a country lodge in the North West.
“Gerald was behind a flimsy fence. He looked aggressive and paced up and down, and then stopped several times and pushed against the fence almost like he wanted to get at me.
“But I wanted to feel what my husband must have faced in those last terrifying seconds of his life.
“I wanted to get in touch with his last encounter with this world, so I paced with Gerald whose size and height was overwhelming.
“The whole time we paced, Gerald never took his eyes off me. So I just stared back at his restless eyes and the horns that killed Carlos, thinking about that awful moment he struck my husband.
“I felt numb, defiant and incredibly sad all at the same time.”
Dina’s interaction with the animal came after spending several emotionally draining hours on the set of German film Premium Nanny 2 listening to the film crew and a Glen Afric wrangler give accounts of how her 47-year-old husband was killed last Wednesday.
At one stage, she broke down at the spot where her husband was smashed across the head and sent flying four metres through the air.
Carvalho landed in a crumpled heap, with blood pouring from his eyes, nose and ears.
A few hours later, he was declared dead at Joburg’s Milpark Hospital after succumbing to extensive facial and skull fractures and severe brain injuries.
Despite Carvalho’s brutal death, which traumatised crew members, Cape Town-based Two Oceans Productions did not halt shooting the German movie and even continued filming while Dina toured the set.
“When I stood where Carlos lay dying listening to how Gerald had circled him and his unit, I was struck how vulnerable and unprotected he must have been,” said Dina.
“Looking through the viewfinder with his head down must have interfered with his perception of the approaching danger.
“He couldn’t have realised that this huge wild animal that he had filmed before was closing in on him,” she added.
A dreadful phone call, not from the set but his CallaCrew employment agency - over an hour after the attack and while he was being airlifted - “completely shattered” Dina and her young children.
“We are all struggling to cope.
“What’s made it even harder to bear is reading all the allegations from Glen Afric and Two Oceans Productions in the media that Carlos was being a cowboy and filming unauthorised and that he even called the giraffe towards his unit.
“They blamed Carlos from the word go and that has been really difficult to swallow while we mourn.
“Glen Afric told journalists that Carlos ‘got in Gerald’s face’ and was trying ‘to prove a point’.
“Besides being incredibly callous, nothing could be further from the truth. My husband was a quiet, gentle and reverent man widely respected in the film business.
“He didn’t get to be a top director of photography by being reckless.
“The facts as I’ve heard them from eyewitnesses are that Carlos was sent by his director to get some wide scenic shots.
“Glen Afric animal wranglers left Gerald unattended and (he) was allowed to attack my husband even after the animal wrangler was radioed by Carlos’s unit director to remove Gerald when he suddenly appeared out of the bush.
“And tragically no one called me to Carlos’s side even though he lay dying in his own blood for over an hour before he was evacuated to hospital.
“So, why they blame Carlos is absolutely incomprehensible and cruel.”
Located 64km north of Joburg, Glen Afric is better known in the movie business as Brookers Farm, a popular filming location for hundreds of international movie and TV shoots for the last 40 years, including Top Gear.
It is owned by British expat John Brooker, whose life story is partly mirrored in the popular ITV series Wild At Heart.
Shot entirely at Brookers, the UK show ran for seven series from January 2006 to December 2012.
Carvalho won a number of awards since he began his career as a runner in 1992.
They included a Silver Lion at the Cannes Film Festival in 2003 for a public service announcement for Childline and a 2014 African Movie Academy Cinematography Award and the Haskell Wexler Award for Best Cinematography at the 14th Woodstock Film Festival Maverick Awards Gala in New York for The Forgotten Kingdom.