The big cat exhibit at the San Francisco Zoo was cordoned off as a crime scene Wednesday while investigators tried to determine whether a Siberian tiger that killed a visitor and mauled two men escaped on its own, the city's police chief said.
"We're not certain whether this incident occurred as a result of human action or whether this was an incident where the animal was able to get out of the grotto," Police Chief Heather Fong said.
The San Francisco medical examiner identified the person who was fatally mauled as 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr., of San Jose, Calif. The two other victims, ages 19 and 23, were upgraded to stable condition Wednesday at San Francisco General Hospital after undergoing surgery to have their wounds cleaned and closed, surgeon Rochelle Dicker said. They suffered deep bites and claw cuts on their heads, necks, arms and hands.
The tiger, named Tatiana, attacked a zookeeper about a year ago during a public feeding, said Robert Jenkins, the zoo's director of animal care and conservation.
Tuesday's attack occurred just after 5 p.m., closing time, on the east end of the 125-acre grounds.
The 300-pound tiger did not leave through an open door, Jenkins said. But he could not explain how it escaped; the tiger's enclosure is surrounded by a 15-foot-wide moat and 20-foot-high walls.
"There was no way out through the door," Jenkins said. "The animal appears to have climbed or otherwise leapt out of the enclosure."
Fong said officers were gathering witness accounts and physical evidence from the enclosure. She would not say if the investigation had yielded any clues about how the animal got loose.
The first attack happened right outside the tiger's enclosure — the victim died at the scene. Four responding officers came across his body when they made their way into the dark zoo grounds, police spokesman Steve Mannina said.
Then they saw the second victim about 300 yards away. The man was sitting on the ground, blood running from gashes in his head, the tiger sitting near him. Suddenly, the tiger attacked the man again, Mannina said.
The officers started approaching the tiger, bearing their handguns. When it started moving in their direction, several of the officers fired, killing the animal.
Only then did they see the third victim, who had also been mauled.
Police spent Wednesday morning searching for possible additional victims but found none.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press