State agency faults S.F. Zoo for tiger attack

Friday, June 22, 2007

The San Francisco Zoo is at fault for a tiger mauling that left a keeper severely injured, according to a report by the state’s workplace safety agency.

In December, a 350-pound Siberian tiger swiped at keeper Lori Komejan, 46, during a regular afternoon feeding, using its claws to pull her closer to its cage, eventually biting her right hand and leaving deep gashes in both her arms, as terrified visitors looked on.

“The flesh was torn from her right arm,” said Dean Fryer, spokesman for California’s Division of Occupation Safety and Health. “It was peeled off, similar to peeling off a glove.”

Komejan screamed, and four people, including an emergency medical technician visiting the Lion House, came to her help. One of them hit the tiger, called Tatiana, in the face with a squeegee until the 3 1/2-year-old Siberian let go of her.

The Cal-OSHA report said zoo officials knew the Lion House posed a hazard, because the cats were known to be able to reach through the bars. It also found officials were remiss for not training workers in safety procedures, such as a buddy system or the use of specialized equipment like repellent sprays to fend off animals.

It demanded changes in the way the cages are set up — changes the zoo has already made — and an $18,000 penalty, which may be appealed. The Lion House is scheduled to reopen within a month.

Zoo officials said they are reviewing the document, which was completed Wednesday. 2007/06/22/state/n090315D87.DTL

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