GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – The Grand Rapids woman who recorded a boy inside a gorilla exhibit says parts of the encounter were too horrific to show.
“I follow the gorilla down to the moat, I watch him drag the boy up to the top of the moat in the concrete exhibit area. After that he literally treats this small boy like a rag doll. This is not on video. I would never show it, it was that horrific,” said Kim O’Connor, whose video has since went viral.
O’Connor said she was visiting her parents in Cincinnati Saturday when they decided to visit the zoo. She said she stayed at the Gorilla World exhibit to capture a photo of one of the animals as her family continued onto another exhibit.
O’Connor said she heard a little boy ask his mom if he could play with the gorilla and go in.
“Later I heard a splash. I didn’t pay attention to it. A man yells, ‘There’s a child in there, there’s a child,’” O’Connor recounted to WOOD-TV Tuesday.
O’Connor said she didn’t realize the gravity of the situation until the gorilla appeared and she began snapping photos.
“Then I realize, oh my gosh, there’s a child in the moat and that’s what he’s come to see,” she added.
O’Connor said a man was prepared to jump into the exhibit to help the boy, but the crowd convinced him doing so would only lead to a double tragedy.
O’Connor said she tried to quiet the crowd after seeing how the gorilla reacted.
“If he saw people, he would spook. And he’d drag him more,” she explained.
“The crowd itself just kept going crazy, making him more agitated. At one point I honestly thought he was going to throw that kid back at us. But he stayed with him,” she elaborated.
O’Connor said the 4-year-old boy’s mother was beside herself, frozen with grief.
“At one point, when I saw security I grabbed the mom and I said, ‘Go with him, go with him. And she called back and she said, ‘Somebody stay with my baby,’ because she had two other children,” she explained.
“I can only imagine from that point what was in her head,” O’Connor added.
O’Connor said she was one of the last people to leave the exhibit.
“By the time the zoo helpers got there, they ushered us out… by the time I got to the end of the exhibit, unfortunately that’s when we heard the shot,” she said.
Zoo director Thane Maynard said using tranquilizers on Harambe likely would have put the boy in greater danger because the drug doesn’t take immediate effect.
The boy was treated at a hospital and released later Saturday. His family said he’s “doing just fine” at home.
Police said over the weekend that no charges were planned, but spokeswoman Tiffaney Hardy said Tuesday they are still gathering information on what happened.
Maynard said the zoo remains safe for its 1.6 million annual visitors, but a review is underway to determine any improvements that can be made.