Former Zoo Employee Weighs In On Tragedy

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A former Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium employee who has been interviewed by police in this month’s deadly accident at the African painted dogs exhibit is speaking out about safety.

It comes after the Allegheny County District Attorney said Wednesday that he is investigating possible criminal negligence by the zoo.

It was a photograph of 2-year-old Maddox Derkosh that Lou Neele says made him come forward.

“I’m a nobody, but I saw it every day,” says Neele.

The former groundskeeper worked at the zoo in 2008 and 2009. He says he passed the painted dog exhibit at least 10 times a day and always saw the same thing, parents putting their kids up onto the rail.

KDKA’s Marty Griffin: “How many times did you see it , Lou?”

Neele: “Every day.”

KDKA’s Marty Griffin: “How many mothers would you see in a day doing this?”

Neele: “Oh, you know, any given day, at least 10.”

KDKA’s Marty Griffin: “Ten mothers?”

Neele: “Oh, of course.”

KDKA’s Marty Griffin: “Putting their kids on the rail?”

Neele: “Yes.”

Neele, who has been interviewed by Pittsburgh police and federal investigators, says he told supervisors about his concerns.

“I told my boss a couple times that something like this could happen up there,” Neele said. “I was told to… his exact words were, ‘This is not your concern, go back to work.’”

District Attorney Stephen Zappala confirms the former employee’s information is part of his investigation. He also confirms he will not be pursuing criminal charges against Derkosh’s mother.

“I haven’t been able to find anything to indicate crimes have been committed by the mother,” said Zappala.

He describes what happened on Nov. 4 as a tragic accident.

“The mom picks up the child, has the child by the waist; in almost one motion as the child is elevated,” Zappala said. “The child moves forward with both hands and his face; mom loses control of him.”

Zappala says there will be changes at the zoo, a look at response times, security issues, physical changes at the African Painted Dog exhibit. He says he has no specifics right now.

Meanwhile, a zoo spokesperson says they are preparing a statement in response to the District Attorney’s comments.

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