After suffering from nervous shock due to witnessing their two-year-old sister, Katie, mauled and seriously injured in an attack by a Brazilian tapir at Dublin Zoo, Schoolboy brothers Daithi and Cathal Owens have received compensation settlements of €33,000.
In approving the €66,000 compensation pay-out at the Circuit Civil Court, Judge John O’Connor was informed that heard the brothers were just eight and six when the savage attack was launched by the tapir, named Rio, during a visit by the Co Mayo family to the zoo in August 2013.
Katie, who sustained significant arm and stomach injuries, was saved when her mother, Patricia Frost, put her own life in danger by throwing her body against the enraged animal and between it and her infant. In 2018 another sibling was awarded a €25,000 compensation settlement in relation to the same incident.
Following the accident Katie was administered first aid treatment by staff of the zoo. Following this she was taken to Temple Street Children’s Hospital for emergency surgery. At Dublin’s Mater Hospital her mother was also hospitalised and treated for injuries she sustained in the incident.
Representing Daithi and Cathal, Mr McGagh – who appearing with Cathy McDarby of Mayo solicitors McDarby and Co – informed Judge O’Connor the boys who are now in their teens were visiting the zoo with their parents Darragh Owens and Patricia Frost. After making previous arrangements with a family friend they were permitted to enter the tapir’s enclosure with a zookeeper.
A typically docile mammal, it is thought that the tapir attacked after an “excited screech” by Katie, picking her up using its mouth and rigorously shaking her. Reacting quickly, her mother had thrown herself against the tapir, dislodging her daughter from the animal’s mouth, as the zookeeper and the child’s father, held back the attacking animal.
Mr McGagh advised Judge O’Connor that Daithi and Cathal had suffered severe psychological trauma following the incident including disturbing recall incidents, nightmares and anxiety.
Mr McGagh said: “The boys had been terrified, shocked and shaken.” He added that the publication in a medical journal of little Katie’s horrific injuries and further publication of the pictures in the media generally had undoubtedly added to the family’s distress.