Sunday October 5, 3:41 PM
German-born illusionist fighting for life after Las Vegas tiger attack
LOS ANGELES, Oct 4 (AFP) - Illusionist Roy Horn, the other half of the famed "Siegfried and Roy" entertainment duo, was fighting for his life after being savagely mauled by his act's tiger during a Las Vegas stage show.
The German-born entertainer, famed for his daring shows starring wild animals, was bitten in the throat by a rare white Bengal tiger during the duo's 13-year-old show at Las Vegas's MGM Mirage Hotel late Friday.
Horn, who was celebrating his 59th birthday, was in critical condition at the University Medical Center in the desert gambling town where he was rushed by ambulance following the attack.
"Roy is in stable but critical condition after three hours of surgery that finished shortly after midnight," said hotel spokesman Alan Feldman.
"His injuries are certainly life-threatening. He is fighting. We are all fighting," Feldman said.
The attack took place at about 8:20 pm (0420 GMT) Friday, 50 minutes into the glittering duo's show, which has become one of the most popular in the desert gambling hub.
"We don't know what precipitated the attack and frankly we may never know, but the tiger lunged at Roy and he sustained a very serious injury to the left side of his neck," Feldman said.
Horn's partner of more than 30 years, Siegfried Fischbacher, 64, appeared on stage moments after the incident, visibly upset, and cancelled the remainder of the show, witnesses said.
Horn was talking to ambulance crew on the way to the hospital but was weak, bleeding heavily and short of breath, Southwest Ambulance Service managing director Brian Rogers told AFP.
"We couldn't stop the bleeding, only the operation could have done that," he said.
Horn then went into shock and resisted having a tube inserted into his throat to help him breathe, leaving doctors to perform a tracheotomy when he arrived at hospital.
"Over the course of the next 24 to 72 hours we will have a much better idea of his condition and prospects of recovery. It's impossible to predict at this point," Feldman said.
Siegfried Fischbacher -- who was changing costumes when the attack by the seven-year-old tiger 'Montecore' took place -- was by his friend's side in hospital.
"Siegfried is very strong-willed and at the end of the day he has unconditional faith and he is facing up really well," said the pair's manager of 28 years, Bernie Yuman.
Despite nearly half a century of performing, the pair have never been attacked by any of the wild animals that co-star in their show, Feldman said.
Siegfried and Roy -- both of whom were born in Germany -- have become fixtures of the Las Vegas scene and are known across the world for their extravagant costumes and daring stunts with wild animals.
The famous illusionists perform eight shows a week in a 1,504-seat theater that bears their name at the Mirage, which holds a lifetime contract with them.
The rare white tigers, which the men raise from cubs, are a signature part of their act.
The show has been cancelled indefinitely and people who have already bought tickets will receive refunds, Feldman said.
The tiger, Montecore -- who has appeared in the show for several years -- was placed under quarantine at the Mirage hotel following the attack. His ultimate fate remains unknown.
"Right now all of us are solely focused on Roy's outcome and concentrating on caring for him, and Montecore we can deal with a little bit later when we know where Roy is," Feldman said.
The Humane Society of the United States, the largest US animal protection organization, said its officials had spoken to Horn several years ago "about the dangers of untrained people keeping big cats as pets."
"When the best-trained and most experienced handlers of big cats can be attacked and dragged around like rag dolls, it is plainly obvious that untrained private citizens should not keep big cats as pets," said the group's director, Wayne Pacelle.
Siegfried and Roy met when they both worked on a German cruise ship in 1959.