herald

Saturday 21 July 2018

€25k damages for boy who saw zoo tapir attack sister

Patricia Frost and her solicitor Cathy McDarby at court yesterday
Patricia Frost and her solicitor Cathy McDarby at court yesterday

A 10-year-old boy who witnessed a horror attack on his toddler sister by a Brazilian tapir at Dublin Zoo has been awarded €25,000 in the Circuit Civil Court.

Ruari Owens, who is now aged 15, saw the tapir, which had earlier given birth to a calf, lift his two-year-old sister, Katie, in its mouth and violently shake her, causing her serious injury.

Katie's parents bravely fought off the animal and were themselves injured in the horrendous attack on August 8, 2013.

Barrister Francis McGagh, counsel for the Mayo family, told Judge Francis Comerford that the children had been in the tapir cage and Ruari had seen the attack close-up.

Mr McGagh told the court that Ruari's brother Cathal, who was only six at the time, also witnessed the attack.

Both boys, while not physically injured, suffered psychological injury.

Mr McGagh said the Zoological Society of Ireland had also offered Cathal, who is now 11, damages of €25,000.

Trauma

But Judge Francis Comerford said that from medical reports Cathal seemed to have been more seriously affected.

He adjourned consideration of Cathal's settlement figure until the court receives an up-to-date report.

Mr McGagh told Judge Comerford that claims on behalf of Katie, her mother, Patricia Frost, and her father, Daragh Owens, were before the High Court.

The court was told that a family friend had organised for the family to accompany a zookeeper into the tapir enclosure.

When the tapir attacked, Katie's mum dived at the animal, dislodging her daughter and covering her with her own body.

Mr McGagh said Ms Frost, her maiden name, suffered significant bite injuries and had to undergo surgery on her arm.

The barrister told Judge Comerford that the family had also suffered trauma as a result of extensive media coverage of the incident, including a prosecution that had been taken against the Zoological Society.

The judge, who said the unfortunate incident was already in the public domain, decided not to apply any reporting restrictions. He said the attack must have been terrifying.

Mr McGagh made an appeal to the media to treat reporting of the case with sensitivity and asked that the family be left to get on with their lives in peace at their home in Mochara, Shrule, Co Mayo.

In 2014 the Zoological Society was prosecuted on the grounds of negligence in the District Court where the judge applied the Probation Act, thus avoiding a criminal conviction, and ordered the zoo to donate €2,500 to both the Jack and Jill Foundation and to the LauraLynn Children's Hospice.

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