Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

October 8, 2013

Worker injured by tiger

Attack comes at animal park

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat

bporterfield@pvdemocrat.com — The national spotlight turned to Wynnewood on Monday after an employee at an animal park there had her arm severely mauled by a tiger over the weekend.

The incident took place Saturday morning at the Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park near Wynnewood.

Efforts to save the woman’s arm continued Monday as she was listed in stable condition at an Oklahoma City hospital.

Joe Schreibvogel of the park said it was all a terrible accident as the result of the female worker violating a safety protocol and placing her hand inside the cage of an adult male tiger.

With a flood of attention from media agencies all the way up to national networks, Schreibvogel defended his park despite some calling for an investigation into how safe it is there.

“This is our very first employee injury in 15 years,” he said about Saturday’s incident.

In fact, Schreibvogel said the park will start its own investigation immediately.

He also disputes those questioning the safety measures at the park. Instead, Schreibvogel says the medical measures in place likely saved the worker’s life afterwards.

“This is something we have stringent protocols for,” he said, referring to the safety procedures.

“This was an employee error of violating the safety protocols of placing any part of the body inside a cage.

“During the entire event she was awake and saying it was her fault and plans to return to work.”

The woman was wearing a large goose down jacket, which according to the park, got bunched up inside the cage wire not allowing her to get her hand back outside the cage wire fast enough.

That’s when the tiger grabbed her hand pulling her left arm through a 4-inch square hole.

Schreibvogel said the staff responded as trained to a medical emergency and park medics were on the scene within 2 minutes as medical attention was given to the staff member.

Initially taken to Pauls Valley General Hospital, the woman was airlifted to OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City. She underwent one and possibly two surgeries and was listed in stable condition on Monday.

An official with the Garvin County Sheriff’s Department said deputies and an ambulance were dispatched to the animal park after the accident, which occurred around 10 a.m. Saturday.

Undersheriff Jim Mullett described the woman’s arm as being “severely mauled” but not severed.

For the county department the next step is to complete its investigation before handing the case over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for determining if the park committed any violations.

“Our role is to gather the facts,” Mullett said. “We’re investigating the incident, and this will be turned over to USDA.”

Mullett did add the tiger involved in the incident never got out of its cage.

In an early statement Schreibvogel said the tiger will not be put down.

Later he was quick to discount any negative attention brought to the park, both with this incident and others from past years.

One of the park’s main opponents over the years has been the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known simply as PETA.

After this weekend’s incident PETA officials again asked for an investigation of the park and a stripping of the facility’s license.

“I don’t worry about the Humane Society or PETA,” Schreibvogel said.

“They’re not here and they know nothing about our facility,” he said. “PETA really doesn’t effect what we do here.

“People who have visited this park know how nice it is, how safe it is.”