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Wednesday, February 25, 1998 Published at 20:16 GMT


Second tragedy hits circus family

The Chipperfield family, famed for running circuses, have said they are "heartbroken" after a keeper had part of an arm bitten off by a tiger.

The accident, at Chipperfields Farm, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire was the second tragedy involving a tiger to affect the family this year.

The animal is believed to have swallowed 32-year-old Nigel Wesson's limb after severing it below the elbow. Mr Wesson had been working as a general assistant at the Chipperfield site for about five weeks.

Tiger will live

A spokeswoman for the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford said he was conscious on arrival and had been talking to nurses.

Chipperfield Enterprises said the four-year-old tiger had been "bedded for the night as normal". It will not be put down.

Early last month Richard Chipperfield, 24, was seriously injured when a tiger he had raised as a cub clamped its jaws around his head during rehearsals for a show in the United States.

His brother Graham, 28, was questioned by police after he fired a shotgun five times to kill the 21-stone animal.

Alex Bridgewater reads the statement on behalf of the Chipperfields (0'18")
The family was too upset to speak to the media after Wednesday's incident but a friend, Alex Bridgewater, read a statement. It said: "The Chipperfield family have bred tigers for over 50 years and up until January this year we have never before had any kind of serious accident with a tiger.

"Now two accidents have occurred in two months. We are heartbroken."

Police said some of the animals at the Chipperfield site were circus animals in winter quarters, while others there were used for TV, film and advertising work.

Injured man joked

Chris Hurley explains what he found when he arrived at the site (0'29")
Paramedic Chris Hurley, who was the first ambulanceman on the scene, described how the keeper joked with him as he gave first aid.

He said: "All things considered he was very good. He was conscious throughout and he kept his courage and spirits up. He was joking with us. He was very impressive."

"When we arrived we found the man lying on the ground just outside one of the animal enclosures. A colleague was with him and was doing a very good job stemming the bleeding.

"The injury was to the left arm. There was a loss of tissue below the elbow and the hand had been severed."

He said the hand had not been found by staff and that they presumed the tiger had eaten it.

"We stemmed the bleeding and gave the patient oxygen before taking him by ambulance to a field a few hundred yards from the scene where he was airlifted to hospital," he said.

The tiger involved in the attack was four years old and had been reared by the Chipperfield organisation, police said.


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