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Saturday, April 10, 2010

LATEST DETAILS FROM WILKES BARRE (WNEP TV)

Deadly Circus Accident
8:27 PM EDT, April 9, 2010
An apparent freak accident Friday afternoon led to the death of a worker who handles circus elephants.
It happened at the Irem Shrine Circus, which is performing this week at the 109th Armory in Wilkes-Barre.
Despite the tragedy, the circus performers decided to go on with the evening performance.
It was an enthusiastic crowd gathered at the 109th Armory in Wilkes-Barre, eager to watch an evening performance of the Irem Shrine Circus.
It was a sharp contrast to the tragedy that occurred just hours before.
Wilkes-Barre Police say a handler was killed after being kicked by an elephant in between the morning and evening shows.
Police believe the elephant was startled by something when it kicked out and according to circus organizers the elephant seemed fine shortly after the incident.
"When the first person got there the animal was perfectly calm, obeyed all commands, did everything it was told to do, it was walking loose, as it always has the entire week," said John Richards, with the Irem Shrine.
The Irem Shrine says the elephant involved in the accident is female African elephant named Dumbo and is the only elephant in the act.
Richards says the victim was in charge of taking care of the elephant.
"The victim of this accident was paid to handle this animal, that's his job to groom this animal," said Richards.
Wilkes-Barre Police say they have ruled the death as non-criminal and turned their investigation over to federal safety officials since this a work-related incident.
The Humane Society was also contacted for a safety inspection of where the animals are kept.
As for the decision not to cancel the evening performance, the Shriners say that call was made by the performers themselves.
"As true performers they said the show has to go on. They'll have a time to grieve and they will have their time," said Richards. "So they are putting the show on, with heavy hearts, but their putting the show on."
The Irem Shrine tells us the Humane Society was at the Armory on Thursday for inspection, which they passed.
The name of the victim has yet to be released, pending the autopsy to be held Saturday morning.

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