2012-09-20 / Front Page

Local Man Survives Mauling by Tiger

Leapt into tiger den
Eric Gross

A Mahopac man with a seeming death wish has miraculously survived an attack by a 400 pound Siberian tiger.

New York City Police officials identified the victim as David Villalobos of Mahopac.

The 25-year-old Mahopac High School graduate jumped from the Wild Asia Monorail traveling through the Bronx Zoo Friday afternoon, landing inside the tiger enclosure finding himself face-to-face with the 11-year-old male tiger.

Zoo officials said the beast named Bachuta attacked Villalobos, leaving what Bronx Zoo Director James Breheny described as "puncture wounds and massive cuts on his arms, legs, shoulder and back."

EMS rushed to the scene. Breheny said zoo employees assisted the victim who was bleeding heavily by shooting the tiger with blasts from a fire extinguisher: "When the tiger backed off, the victim was told to roll under an electrified fence wire to safety."

The Putnam man was admitted to Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx in critical but stable condition.

Officials said they had no idea why Villalobos leapt into the den. Breheny noted this was the first time in 35 years of operation of the monorail that any passenger had jumped into an animal area.

Back in Mahopac, neighbors expressed shock and disbelief. Chris Panzarino said his next door neighbor was a "real great kid. He helped me around the yard with everything. I don't understand it."

Acquaintance Paul Giarraputo graduated from Mahopac High with Villalobos: "He never indicated to me any desire to kill himself. He was very in tune with his spirituality. David's Facebook posts were strange to say the least."

A woman answering the phone at the Villalobos residence said her brother was "an amazing guy. He loves everybody. I don't know what happened." The woman declined to give her name.




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