SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) — The last minutes of a 17-year-old boy’s life were spent trying to save his friend from a brutal tiger mauling at the San Francisco Zoo, only to have the animal turn on him, police and family members said.
Carlos Sousa Jr. and his friend’s brother desperately tried to distract the 350-pound Siberian tiger, but the big cat instead came after Sousa.
“He didn’t run. He tried to help his friend, and it was him who ended up getting it the worst,” the teen’s father, Carlos Sousa Sr., said Thursday after meeting with police.
The heroic portrait of Sousa and a timeline of the dramatic Christmas Day attack emerged as officials revealed that the tiger’s escape from its enclosure may have been aided by walls that were well below the height recommended by the accrediting agency for the nation’s zoos.
San Francisco Zoo Director Manuel A. Mollinedo acknowledged that the wall around the animal’s pen was just 12Â½ feet high, after previously saying it was 18 feet. According to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the walls around a tiger exhibit should be at least 16.4 feet high.
Mollinedo said it was becoming increasingly clear the tiger leaped or climbed out, perhaps by grabbing onto a ledge. Investigators have ruled out the theory the tiger escaped through a door behind the exhibit.
“She had to have jumped,” he said. “How she was able to jump that high is amazing to me.”
Mollinedo said safety inspectors had examined the wall, built in 1940, and never raised any red flags about its size.
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