PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s been three weeks since the death of 2-year-old Maddox Derkosh, the little boy who fell into the African Painted Dogs exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.
The city has watched and grieved with the family, but hasn’t heard from them until now.
KDKA’s Lynne Hayes-Freeland sat down with Maddox’s grandfather to talk about the accident and how the family is coping.
“Maddox had a tendency to run sideways and look sideways like he was checking himself out,” said Martin Noone, the boy’s grandfather. “[Maddox] always, always was laughing, and then his laugh always came from his stomach.”
Most of us never met Maddox, but ever since Nov. 4 we have known his face, his smile, those little glasses and the story of his fateful trip to the Pittsburgh Zoo when he fell into the exhibit of African Painted Dogs and was mauled to death.
It’s an accident his grandfather says has forced their family to learn to cope day by day, sometimes hour by hour.
“Moments. If I see a picture, if I read something, those are the hardest time,” said Noone. “I think as a grandparent, it’s just moments. I don’t even know what it’s like for Elizabeth and Jason.”
Pittsburgh police and the Pittsburgh Zoo both launched their own investigations into the circumstances surrounding what happened the day Maddox died.
While the public may debate what happened, how it happened, who did what and why, the family has not. And as a father and grandfather, Noone says it’s not a discussion he plans to have.
“I have never asked Elizabeth what she did. I don’t think there’s no need for me to put her there,” Noone said. “I’m only there to love her. Let the other people ask her what she did. I’m there to support her.”
KDKA’s Lynne Hayes-Freeland: “Is there one thing about this whole incident that you think you have misunderstood?”
Noone: “The one thing I want the people to know – that Elizabeth and Jason were fantastic parents. They were fantastic parents, every day they loved that boy.”
In memory of the toddler, the family asked for donated trucks in lieu of flowers, which launched Trucks for Maddox, and it turned into an outlet for the entire family.
Recently, Elizabeth Derkosh has started a putting yellow sticker on every truck that read a gift from your friend Maddox Derkosh. Beginning this weekend, the toy distribution process will begin. But the healing for Elizabeth is far from over.
“I don’t want my daughter to blame herself,” said Noone. “I don’t want my daughter to feel she let him down. Those are my two biggest fears.”