A file picture taken on Feb. 25, 2011, shows a Siberian tiger at a zoo, in Ameville, France.
(Photo: Jean-Christophe Verhaegen, AFP/Getty Images)
(USA Today) -- A tiger tore the arm off a woman working at an exotic animal park in Oklahoma on Saturday morning, local officials said.
Witnesses said the woman was trying to either place or remove a lock on a smaller cage that was holding the tiger at the Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park in Wynnewood, Okla., Garvin County Undersheriff Jim Mullett said in a statement.
The woman was airlifted to the University of Oklahoma Medical Center in Oklahoma City, where she is undergoing surgery, Mullett said. The incident happened at 10 a.m. Central Time, the zoo said in a statement posted on its Facebook page.
Park owner Joe Schreibvogel posted a statement on Facebook saying the worker "placed her hand inside an adult male tiger cage. She was wearing a large goose down jacket which got bunched up inside the cage wire not allowing her to get her hand back outside the cage wire fast enough and the tiger grabbed her hand pulling her left arm through a 4-inch square hole."
Zoo staff and medics immediately responded and gave the woman first aid. An ambulance transferred the woman to a nearby helipad where a helicopter took her to Oklahoma City, Mullett said.
"During the entire event, she was awake and saying it was her fault and plans to return to work," Schreibvogel said.
The employee's name was not released pending notification of her family, he said.
The park, which is located about 40 miles south of Oklahoma City, is closed "until further notice and the tiger will be held in quarantine until the investigation is complete," Mullett said.
The zoo said the employee violated safety protocols telling workers not to place "any part of the body inside a cage." It said that the tiger will not be put down.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the member of our staff that was injured," Schreibvogel's statement said.
Among the various activities mentioned on the zoo's answering machine is the chance to pet a baby tiger.