CLEVELAND, OH. (FOX NEWS) – A toddler fell into the cheetah pit at a Cleveland zoo Saturday afternoon after his mother dangled him over the railing and he slipped out of her grasp, authorities said.
Zoo officials said the cheetahs never approached the boy, 2, or his parents, who jumped in to rescue him.
Fox 8 in Cleveland said the boy injured his leg. The station said the mother would be charged with the crime of child endangerment.
The near tragedy at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo horrified witnesses who heard screams after the boy slipped out of his mother’s grasp and fell 10 feet.
“You just hear these screams, then all you could see is the adult that jumped in, got the child and then somebody pulled him out,” one witness told Fox8. “It was a heavier-set guy with the kid. They started screaming and that’s when they started blocking everybody off.
The zoo’s executive director, Chris Kuhar, said the mother appeared to be at fault.
“Unfortunately, we have a number of eyewitness accounts that point to the strong likelihood that the child was dangled over the railing,” Kuhar said.
He told Fox8 the cheetahs “made no attempt to interact” with the child or his parents at any time.
A Cleveland Fire Department spokesman told the Cleveland Plain Dealer the mother was holding another child when the boy fell.
The zoo closed the cheetah exhibit for the remainder of the day and said it would press charges against the boy’s mother for endangering his welfare.