Fri, Oct 10, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Siegfried says tiger was trying to help Roy after he fell on stage

REUTERS , WASHINGTON

Las Vegas performer Siegfried Fischbacher of the "Siegfried & Roy" duo said on Wednesday the mauling of his partner Roy Horn by a tiger during a performance was an accident.

Horn remained in critical but stable condition at University Medical Center in Las Vegas after a 273kg white tiger seized him by the neck in the middle of a performance last Friday on the magician's 59th birthday.

The tiger was trying to help Roy after the magician took a fall, Fischbacher said in an interview on CNN's Larry King Live program.

"I just saw that the tiger grabbed him on the sleeve ... and Roy said, `Let go,' and the tiger let go and Roy bent back and he slipped," Fischbacher said.

He said he realized there could be trouble as the tiger moved toward Horn.

"The tiger [grabbed] Roy in the neck and he pulled him back on stage," Fischbacher said.

He said that the animal sensed heightened danger when he and an animal trainer ran to Horn's aid. "So he took Roy and put him backstage behind the curtain ... to protect him and then he let Roy go," Fischbacher said.

"I say it was an accident," he said, adding that if the tiger wanted to kill Horn it would have done so very quickly.

Fischbacher and the duo's longtime manager Bernie Yuman were optimistic about Horn's recovery.

Fischbacher said that he and Horn were communicating through hand signals and eye contact.

"He understood exactly what I was saying. I could see it in his face. His color is back. And so we take it just by hour and hour," Fischbacher said after visiting Horn in the hospital earlier in the evening.

"His condition is he's stable. He's critical, and I don't think there's any way that you can really give a long-term prognosis," Yuman said on CNN. "We're about to embark on the sixth day, tonight, and we really believe that we're about to turn the corner."

Horn's injury was the first sustained by the partners in nearly 5,700 shows at the Mirage resort on the Las Vegas Strip.

The two performers met and joined forces in 1959, when Horn smuggled a cheetah on board a cruise ship where Fischbacher was performing magic.

They headed to Las Vegas and became top performers in the desert city and gambling oasis.

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