Atmosphere at Pittsburgh zoo somber after boy's death
Visitors to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium paused silently throughout the day Tuesday at a makeshift memorial of flowers, candles, stuffed toys and a toy truck honoring the Whitehall boy who died in the African painted dog exhibit Sunday.
“I think we're all struggling with the enormity of it,” said Janice Brusoski, 45, of Bethel Park, as she and her three sons stood by the memorial at the closed outdoor exhibit. “This has always been a place of safety and learning.”
The zoo reopened to visitors Tuesday, two days after Maddox Derkosh, 2, fell from a railing at an observation deck and into the exhibit, where he was mauled to death by several of the 11 dogs inside.
Pittsburgh homicide detectives said they continue to investigate and still have not interviewed the boy's mother, Elizabeth Derkosh, 34. Police said Elizabeth Derkosh lifted her son up to allow him to stand on a wooden railing in the viewing gazebo, moments before he fell forward through the opening, bounced off a safety net below and landed in the open yard of the exhibit.
“What happened? Where's the baby?” Junhong Park, 6, asked his mother, Namhee Kim, 36, of Aspinwall, who replied, “He's in heaven.”
Some visitors who strolled through the park Tuesday said they already had planned to visit because their children had no school because of Election Day.
Zoo spokeswoman Tracy Gray said she believed attendance was what it would be on a “normal November Tuesday,” at nearly 420 visitors.
The painted dogs exhibit will remain closed until spring; the 10 surviving dogs are quarantined for a month. Pittsburgh police fatally shot one dog as officers when it refused to obey keepers' calls to go inside and authorities needed to rescue the boy.
“Mommy, I'm very sad,” Madison Bunyenyezi, 6, of Shaler said as she leaned against her mother, Lauren Bunyenyezi, 29. The pair stood at another nearby observation deck overlooking part of the empty African dog exhibit.
“It's not like your life stops,” Bunyenyezi said. “You just keep moving forward. You have to let your kids know that sometimes bad things happen.”
Julie Bosley, 37, of Ellwood City brought her son Briley, 8, to the zoo to celebrate a visit to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh in which doctors said he remains free of neuroblastoma, a nerve cancer, after seven years.
While Bosley said her son didn't quite understand everything that happened Sunday, he said a couple times during the visit that he “didn't want to fall in.”
In lieu of flowers, the Derkosh family is asking people who attend the funeral to bring a toy construction truck to be donated to a children's Christmas charity.
Visitation is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at William Slater II Funeral Service, 1650 Greentree Rd., Scott. A funeral Mass will be celebrated 10 a.m. Friday at St. Bernard Church, 311 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon.
Staff writer Margaret Harding contributed to this report. Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rising East Liberty out of reach for Pittsburgh’s poor
- Bill seeks to give Pittsburgh police license plate info
- Western Pa.’s ties to 2016 White House race extend beyond Santorum
- Tablets for Allegheny County Jail inmates deemed a success
- Beating victim from McKees Rocks recalled as skilled family man
- Filing in Scaife case challenges subpoena request by his children
- Water line bursts at Allegheny General Hospital
- Newsmaker: Kathryn Jolley
- $1B rapid bridge replacement across Pa. aims for savings, safety
- Child falls through window in Marshall-Shadeland, taken to Children’s
- Amtrak still working to add bicycle racks to Western Pa. train routes