A circus chief claimed activists sabotaged an elephant lorry that crashed, killing one animal and injuring four others.
The tragedy happened in Spain when the lorry was attempting to overtake another vehicle.
It overturned on the A-30 near Pozo Canada in the central region of Castilla-La Mancha.
Ignacio Pedrera, a spokesman for Reunited Circus, said sabotage was a possibility.
He said: “It would not be the first time that radical animal rights activists had carried out actions like this.”
No arrests have been made and police have not said what caused the accident.
According to Mr. Pedrera, some people said on social media that they wished the circus trainer had died instead of the elephant.
He added: “The trainer is suffering a great deal of pain because he is a person who really loves animals.”
He said the lorry had all the necessary permits to carry the elephants.
The road was closed for about two hours while cranes were sent to lift the injured elephants on to rescue vehicles.
Video footage showed an elephant being hauled away from the crash scene as firefighters stabilized the animal by holding its feet, one of which appeared to be bandaged.
There were five elephants in the lorry and another video showed two of them being led away.
Pictures showed the lorry lying on its side across the highway, with some of the animals standing nearby.