LA Zoo worker rescued after falling 15-20 feet into gorilla enclosure

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- An employee at the Los Angeles Zoo was rescued after falling 15 to 20 feet into the gorilla enclosure on Thursday, fire officials said.

The four gorillas in the enclosure were in a separate sleeping area at the time of the fall, which was reported around 8:30 a.m., and the worker was never in danger from the animals, zoo officials said.

"The gorillas were secured into their bedrooms. We don't allow employees to be in that type of contact with the animals. The keepers don't go into the same space with the gorillas. They've always got barriers between them and the animals," said John Lewis, the zoo director.

The LAFD Urban Search and Rescue team lowered down a basket for the rescue, which took approximately 25 minutes.

"We put several ladders in there. We had a litter basket that we carried down to the patient. We put him in the litter basket and then we used some leverage with rope systems to bring him out," described LAFD Capt. Daniel Curry.

The employee was safely extricated from the enclosure around 9 a.m. and was transported to an area hospital in fair condition with a possibly fractured leg.

LAFD Public Service Officer Margaret Stewart said the protocol in this type of incident is to transport the patient to a trauma center since it is considered a "long fall," which is defined as a fall greater than 20 feet.

It appears the employee, a grounds worker who is in his mid 50s, was working on the irrigation system on top of a vegetation planter when he somehow fell.

The zoo director said there were safety cables in place where the longtime employee was working. Zoo staff members are investigating how the incident occurred and if it could have been prevented.
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