"I just know I lost my son," says the father of the San Francisco Zoo victim

By Stephen M. Silverman
December 27, 2007 12:40 PM
AP

The parents of the 17-year-old who was killed Christmas Day by an escaped, 350-lb. Siberian tiger at the San Francisco Zoo are set to meet with investigators Thursday to determine how the tragedy occurred.

“Right now, I don’t have any answers to this,” a grief-stricken Carlos Sousa, Sr. said on Thursday’s Today show. “I just know I lost my son, and it hurts.”

Carlos Sousa, Jr. was killed around 5 p.m. Tuesday when a 4-year-old female tiger named Tatiana escaped from her grotto – despite a 20-ft.-wide moat that separated the animal from spectators. An 18-ft. wall also surrounded the tiger’s enclosure.

“He’s my only son,” the elder Sousa told Today‘s Matt Lauer. “Me and him were like not just father and son, but older brother, younger brother. Anything he wanted to say to me, he come out and tell me. We really love each other. Every time he sees me, he gives me hugs and kisses. I love him so much. I’m gonna miss those hugs. I’m gonna miss those kisses.”

Tatiana was put down after the incident. Zoo officials say the incident marks the first time a big cat has ever killed a zoo patron in the U.S.

No Surveillance Cameras

The zoo does not have surveillance cameras, so police intend to speak to two unidentified brothers, aged 19 and 23, who were about 300 feet away from Sousa Jr. at the time of the attack.

The brothers, who were bitten and gnawed by the tiger, have undergone surgery and are expected to recover.

Thursday’s San Francisco Chronicle, citing unnamed police sources, reports that possibly one or more the young men taunted the tiger by climbing over the fence at the top of the grotto and dangling a leg over the moat.

“It’s hard to believe somebody would open a gate to do something idiotic like that to let an animal loose,” Sousa Sr. said. “It’s not hard to believe a tiger like that could jump 18 feet. I want an answer.”

Regarding the speculation about enticing the big cat, he said, “I’m not saying my son could have been taunting. I don’t know. Those two wounded boys, they should have the answer. I’m just waiting to find out myself.”

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