DA says mother of boy mauled to death at zoo won't face charges

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PITTSBURGH - Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala announced Wednesday  that the mother of the 2-year-old boy who was fatally mauled when he fell into the African painted dogs exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium earlier this month will not face criminal charges.

Zappala said Elizabeth Derkosh, 34, of Whitehall had to be physically held back as her son, Maddox Derkosh, fell into the wild dogs exhibit on Nov. 4.

“It’s probable that this child thought there was Plexiglas where there was not Plexiglas,” Zappala said. “Witnesses described (the fall) as 'lunging.'”

Maddox bled to death when he was attacked by 11 of the dogs. He had been visiting the zoo with his mother and some other relatives.

“It’s a tragic accident,” Zappala said. “The mother picked up the child and had him by the waist. Almost in one motion as the child was elevated, he moved forward with and hands and his face. The mom lost control of him and he went down on the netting. He bounced twice and went over.”

Zappala met Wednesday with two investigators from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for what he characterized as an “active review” of the incident. The UDSA is the federal agency that deals with the treatment of animals for exhibition.

“There were some things done really well and some things that create issues,” Zappala said.

Zappala said the USDA is looking at the national security protocols at the 114-year-old zoo. His office is looking into whether any charges or sanctions will be filed against the zoo.

“We are going to work together with these regulatory agencies to do the best we can to prevent this tragedy from ever happening again,” Zappala said.

Zappala said he plans to meet with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to familiarize himself with national accreditation standards. Only then will he be able to determine whether the zoo was negligent.

“We want to ensure this tragedy never takes place again,” Zappala said.

Zoo officials and relatives of Maddox could not immediately be reached for comment.

Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.

 

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