Las Vegas Sun

August 1, 2014

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Horn still critical after attack

Famed magician and animal trainer Roy Horn remained in critical but stable condition this morning after Friday's onstage mauling, doctors at University Medical Center said.

"Because of the fact that we are embarking on the third day, the doctors are cautiously optimistic about his condition," said Bernie Yuman, manager of Siegfried & Roy, who have been entertaining in Las Vegas for 33 years.

"He continues to communicate with us. ... The doctors tell us that the more time that passes the better we are."

Jenn Michaels, a Mirage spokeswoman, said doctors told company officials that Horn was able to move his hands.

"The doctors asked him to move his left hand, then his right hand and then give thumbs up, which he was able to do," Michaels said. "That is encouraging but does not mean he is out of the woods yet."

After the attack, Horn lost a great deal of blood, Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said. Horn spent more than two hours in surgery Friday night and was taken to surgery after suffering a possible stroke on Saturday morning.

The extent of damages done in the attack are not fully known, Feldman said. Horn's recovery could take weeks or months.

"We can't say whether it will be two weeks, six months or six years, we just don't know," Feldman said Sunday night.

Horn had never been so much as scratched during a show in 44 years working with the big cats, Yuman said.

"The initial impact was devastation, but the last place Roy would place the blame would be on the animal," Yuman said.

Siegfried Fischbacher, who met Horn on a cruise ship in 1957, issued a statement of support for his partner.

"For more than four decades, I have had the privilege of standing beside this man, and I will continue to do so," Fischbacher said.

Siegfried & Roy's showroom at The Mirage was packed every night, attracting worldwide attention in its 13-year run. The show has been suspended indefinitely and its future is in doubt.

The show's 267 employees were told by management Saturday night that they should start looking for other work.

"We asked the cast and crew to start looking at other opportunities in their lives now," Feldman said. Some may find work at the sister property MGM Grand, he said.

The Mirage employes 202 people and 67 people are employees of producer Kenneth Feld.

Steve Wynn also offered jobs for some of the workers at his Wynn Las Vegas resort expected to open in 2005, Feldman said. Wynn visited with Horn on Saturday.

"We're not concerned with with the impact to the hotel; we're only concerned about Roy," Mirage Resorts President Bobby Baldwin said.

Kenneth Feld, president of Feld Entertainment Inc., the producer of the show, praised Horn's work.

"Roy's bond with his animals was singular," he said. "There wasn't a person who saw this show who wasn't affected by it."

The animal that attacked Horn, a 7-year-old tiger named Montecore, is in quarantine at the Mirage for 10 days according to state law, Feldman said.

The Mirage and the Nevada Division of Wildlife will investigate the incident, Feldman said.

Clark County has no jurisdiction in the incident, county spokesman Eric Pappa said.

"It would be under our jurisdiction if the animal escaped," he said.

Feldman would not say whether the resort had an emergency plan in place for an event such as Friday.

"That's not really relevant at this point," Feldman said.

People stood outside University Medical Center's Trauma Unit throughout the weekend awaiting word on Horn's condition.

Kurt Mecklenberg, who moved with his wife, Mayme, to Las Vegas four years ago from Placerville, Calif., said he wanted to give blood to Horn because he was a fellow German.

"It is my duty," Mecklenberg said. "I want to give him my blood. I want him to stay alive. All over the world people depend on Roy to take care of animals."

Hospital officials told Mecklenberg they had enough blood.

Mayme Mecklenberg said they had seen the show.

"I loved the show," she said. "Roy really handled the animals really well."

David Valdez, an usher at the International Church of Las Vegas, said prayers at the entrance to UMC's Trauma Center.

"He's done a lot for Las Vegas and we believe in God for a miracle," Valdez said.

Yvette Young knew Horn when she worked as a circus performer for the Shriners Circus and later when she performed at Circus Circus, she said.

A costume and wardrobe manager at the Tropicana, Young said that she attended Siegfried and Roy's first show at the Frontier hotel-casino in 1981.

"It was wonderful," she said. "I had to come to see how he was."

Pat Dingle, director of the Las Vegas Zoo, said he has known Siegfried and Roy for decades.

"Ray Horn is fearless among animal trainers, but the reality is they are still wild cats," Dingle said.

"Unfortunately, reality hit the stage (Friday) night."

As Horn walked across the stage with the tiger on a leash during Friday night's show, the animal grabbed his right arm, witnesses said. Horn began hitting the tiger over the head with the microphone. The tiger then grabbed Horn by the throat and dragged him across the stage, "like a rag doll," one witness said.

Cast and crew backstage sprayed the tiger with a fire extinguisher, and the big cat released Horn, Feldman said. Trainers and others applied first aid supplies from kits backstage.

The show was videotaped, but the tape has not been released, Feldman said.

Clark County Fire Department paramedics and Southwest Ambulance responded to the hotel in less than five minutes, county fire department spokesman Bob Leinbach said.

When paramedics reached Horn, his assistants were trying to stop the bleeding, which was the greatest threat to Horn's life, Leinbach said.

"He had trouble talking, but he was still breathing on the ambulance ride," Leinbach said. "He was fighting the breathing tube, which is a good sign."

The bleeding had stopped when the ambulance arrived at the hospital, Leinbach said.

Dr. Stephen Miller, Horn's personal physician, said the tiger's bite missed the major artery, the carotid.

"If it would have caught the carotid ..." Miller said, his voice trailing to silence.

Miller said, based on the information he had received, Horn could be expected to be in for a fairly long rehabilitation.

People in the audience, including a group of Australian tourists in the front row of the theater, thought the attack was part of the act.

"Roy seemed to be playing with the tiger when it grabbed his arm," David Strudwick of Australia said. "He hit it with his microphone, then he was grabbed by the neck and dragged off the stage.

"And then you look at the staff and they had a bit of horror in their eyes."

Maureen Owen, performance director for the act, said she was there but did not see the attack itself.

"It happened so fast," Owen said. "I reached him after it happened."

Sheriff Bill Young and dozens of Metro Police K-9 officers visited the hospital to lend their support to Horn. Siegfried and Roy sponsored the annual K-9 trials, officers said.

Las Vegas performers offered their condolences throughout the weekend.

Magician Lance Burton found eight messages on his cell phone when he left the stage at his show at the Monte Carlo on Friday night.

"We're all shocked and concerned," Burton said. "We all pray that he is going to pull through. The magicians in this town are a tight-knit group. It's like it happened to a member of your family.

"It's really tragic this happened on his birthday," Burton said, referring to Horn's turning 59 years old on Friday. "He's a fighter. He has a very strong spirit."