Family mourns teen killed by tiger

Monday, December 31, 2007

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- As more details emerged about the chaos during a tiger's attack of three young men at the San Francisco Zoo, family and friends mourned the teenager who was killed.

About 100 people gathered Saturday outside the San Jose home of Carlos Sousa Jr.'s grandmother for a vigil. Many held candles in cups and were silent as Sousa's father stood on the doorstep in front of two enlarged photos of him and his son.

"I would like to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for coming here and honoring my son Carlos. My son Carlos was a very good boy" said Carlos Sousa Sr., choking back tears. "I can see that he had a lot of friends here. I want you all to remember the good things that he did and carry this with you in your hearts for as long as you can."

A 350-pound Siberian tiger killed Sousa Jr. and seriously hurt two of his friends after escaping from its enclosure. Paul Dhaliwal, 19, and Kulbir Dhaliwal, 23, were released from the hospital Saturday. The brothers suffered severe bite and claw wounds.

Police said Sousa Jr.'s neck was slashed while the teen tried to scare away the tiger after it attacked Kulbir Dhaliwal. Sousa, 17, died at the scene just before the zoo's closing time on Christmas Day.

A funeral for Sousa is scheduled for Jan. 8 in San Jose.

Police radio transcripts revealed a chaotic scene at the San Francisco Zoo as zookeepers scrambled to locate and sedate the animal, and medics refused to enter until they knew they would be safe.

At 5:10 p.m., zoo employees reported that a tiger was loose and, at 5:13 p.m., the zoo was being evacuated and locked down as fire department responders arrived.

For several minutes, medics refused to enter the zoo until it had been secured. Meanwhile, zookeepers were trying to round up what they initially believed to be multiple tigers.

The transcript does not indicate when police or emergency responders entered, but by 5:20 p.m. medics had located one victim with a large puncture hole to his neck. The tiger was still loose.

At 5:27 p.m., less than 20 minutes after the initial reports were made, the officers began firing, killing the tiger.

It was unclear whether letting police and medics into the zoo sooner would have altered the outcome of the attacks or subjected emergency responders to greater danger with a tiger on the loose.

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