A zookeeper fatally attacked by a Malayan tiger in April screamed for help into her radio before the 350-pound animal crushed her neck. Her coworkers could not reach her in time, according to an autopsy report released Friday.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Stacey Konwiser, 37, was attacked April 15 after she entered the tigers’ night house at the West Palm Beach Zoo in Florida to prepare for a presentation.
The tiger that attacked the zookeeper was a then 12-year-old male tiger named Hati, who was on loan from the zoo in Fort Worth, Texas.
According to Palm Beach County Medical Examiner Aleita J. Kinman, Konwiser died of a fractured spine, a lacerated jugular and other neck injuries sustained from the mauling. She also suffered nonlethal claw injuries to her chest, shoulder and arm, reports the New York Daily News.
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The report says the tiger’s cage was meant to be locked, but for whatever reason, it was left open. The report further speculates that Konwiser’s view of the tiger may have been blocked by a large box inside the enclosure.
As Konwiser screamed for help her coworkers frantically rushed to the tiger exhibit and found the tiger standing over her body, according to the report.
Attempts to lure Hati into a cage in order to shoot him with a tranquilizer dart failed.
Paramedics were only able to reach her 17 minutes after the attack, and she was rushed to an area hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
A toxicology report showed no presence of alcohol or illegal drugs in Konwiser’s system. It did detect Topiramate, a drug prescribed to treat and prevent seizures or migraine headaches. Konwiser’s uncle, Jeff Miller, told the Sun Sentinel she did not have epilepsy, but did take medication to prevent migraines.
In the weeks following the attack, the zoo was criticized for not shooting the tiger to save the zookeepers life. Zoo officials defended their decision, saying they feared a bullet would strike Konwiser or further enrage the rare tiger if it didn’t kill him.
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Meanwhile, zoo officials are disputing the report, saying it contains inaccuracies, reports the Sentinel.
According to an internal investigation conducted by the zoo officials, Konwiser did not radio for help. Instead, the first radio call came from a maintenance staff member who was about 100 feet away from the tiger night house when the zookeeper screamed.
Zoo officials have said Konwiser violated policy by entering the enclosure, and zoo president Andrew Aiken said employees “are never allowed to enter a tiger enclosure to which the animal has access.”
Konwiser, who had been dubbed the “tiger whisperer” by colleagues, had worked at the Palm Beach Zoo for three years when the attack came. She had reportedly given her notice to accept a job with the Food and Drug Administration, but the zoo offered to match her salary and give her new responsibilities in an effort to keep her. That decision was pending at the time of the attack.
Konwiser’s uncle said there remains many left unanswered questions that he hopes will be answered by other pending investigations, he told the Sun Sentinel.
“I still have a lot of questions. I may never get the answers to the questions, but I’ll wait until we have the final reports.”
Investigative reports on the attack by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are pending.
There are only about 300 adult Malayan tigers in the wild, and they are considered endangered.
The late zookeeper is survived by husband Jeremy Konwiser, a Palm Beach Zoo employee.
[Featured Image by Palm Beach Zoo/Facebook]