Boy who saw tapir attack sister in zoo gets €25,000
A boy who as a 10-year-old witnessed a horror attack on his toddler sister by a Brazilian tapir at Dublin Zoo and saw his parents injured in a bloody fight to save their daughter's life, has been awarded €25,000 in the Circuit Civil Court.
Ruari Owens, now aged 15, saw the female tapir, which had earlier given birth to a calf, lift his sister Katie (2) in its mouth and violently shake her, causing her serious injury.
Katie's parents, Daragh Owens and Patricia Frost, bravely fought off the animal and were themselves injured in the attack that took place in Dublin Zoo on August 8, 2013.
Barrister Francis McGagh, counsel for the family from Mochara, Shrule, Co Mayo, told Judge Francis Comerford yesterday that the children had been in the tapir cage and Ruari had seen close-up the sudden and violent attack.
Mr McGagh told the court that Ruari's brother Cathal, who was aged six at the time, had also witnessed the vicious attack. Both boys, while not physically injured, had suffered psychological injury.
Mr McGagh said the Zoological Society of Ireland had also offered Cathal, now aged 11, settlement damages of €25,000, but Judge Comerford said that from medical reports Cathal seemed to have been more seriously affected and adjourned consideration of his settlement.
The court heard claims on behalf of Katie and her parents were currently before the High Court. A family friend had organised for the family to accompany a zoo keeper into the tapir enclosure, the court was told. When the mother tapir attacked, Ms Frost dived at the animal, dislodging her daughter and covering her with her own body.
Mr McGagh said that Ms Frost suffered significant bite injuries and had to undergo surgery on her arm. Both parents also suffered traumatic psychological injuries.
He told Judge Comerford that the family had also suffered trauma as a result of extensive media coverage of the incident.
"There is no doubt that the media coverage in Ireland and in Britain and in other places, including graphic pictures of injuries, greatly exacerbated the family's psychological injuries and recovery," he said during an application to have the boys' cases heard in camera.
Judge Comerford said the incident was already in the public domain and decided not to apply any reporting restrictions.