Palm Beach Zoo tiger keeper Stacey Konwiser was mauled to death on April 15 after she went inside the tiger enclosure while the big cats still had access to it.
The Malayan tiger pounced at 1:55 p.m., records obtained by WPTV showed, but the big cat wasn’t sedated until 2:06 p.m. — and emergency responders couldn’t get to the dying zookeeper until 2:12 p.m., when the drugs finally knocked the creature out.
Someone called 911 seconds after the tiger attack, and West Palm Beach emergency dispatch teams arrived at the zoo gates at 2:01 p.m.
“Tiger is still not contained. We’re on the outer gates standing by for zoo personnel,” a paramedic said, according to emergency dispatch recordings.
But it wasn’t until 2:06 p.m. — 11 minutes after the tiger first attacked Konwiser — that the animal was hit with a tranquillizer dart.
“Animal has been tranquilized. We’re waiting for it to take effect before we’re going to enter,” a paramedic said at 2:06 p.m.
The drugs finally kicked in at 2:12 p.m., rendering the animal unconscious. Emergency crews finally reached Konwiser 17 minutes after she was mauled. The 38-year-old was rushed to a local hospital, where she died from a neck injury, officials said.
Zoo officials said they picked sedation over shooting after they took guest safety, the possibility of bullet ricochet and the size of the enclosure into consideration.
“We stand by our decision to tranquilize the tiger involved in the incident,” the zoo said in a statement.
Last week, the zoo said Konwiser broke the facility’s safety policy when she went into the tiger enclosure while the big cats still had access to it. Zoo protocols forbid employees from entering the tigers’ habitat while the animals are inside of it.
Konwiser, known as the "Tiger Whisperer," worked at the zoo for three years.
Her husband, Jeremy Konwiser, is also an employee at the Florida animal facility. The two met while working at a California zoo, according to a biography posted on the Palm Beach Zoo’s Facebook page.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and several local agencies are investigating the Friday attack. The zoo is also conducting its own investigation.
“All of us share two common goals: to completely understand how this could ever happen and to assure everyone that this will never happen again,” zoo representatives said.