Amazing Tiger attack at African Lion Safari
Life tough after tiger attack
Victim's arm muscles destroyed
Family also suing over son's injuries
LEGAL AFFAIRS REPORTER
A Stoney Creek photographer says the music stopped "completely" in his family's home the day a tiger jumped through the window of his car at the African Lion Safari and mauled his accordion-playing son.
"In order to play, you've got to have good movement in your fingers," Ranko Balac testified in the Superior Court of Justice yesterday.
Balac's son David, 31, and David's former girlfriend Jennifer-Anne Cowles, 28, are suing the Rockton game park for injuries they suffered on April 19, 1996, when Paka, a 2.1-metre-long, 113-kilogram female Bengal tiger, came through their passenger window.
David Balac underwent several surgeries and skin grafts to his right arm and hand, and continues to suffer from chronic pain, memory loss and depression, the court heard. In addition to having his arm muscles destroyed and nerves and tendons crushed, Balac developed an infection from bacteria in the tiger's saliva, Madam Justice Jean MacFarland was told.
Meanwhile, Cowles, who was pregnant at the time, says disfiguring scars on her right hip and scalp have effectively ended her career as an exotic dancer. The court was told a tiger bite can exert 544 kilograms of pressure per square inch.
Ranko Balac has also filed a lawsuit. He, his wife Slavka and daughter Sandra have brought claims against the park under the Family Law Act, alleging that David's injuries deprived them of his guidance, care and companionship, and forced them to provide extra nursing and housekeeping services.
Earlier this week, David Balac testified that he took accordion lessons for 10 years and played in several competitions. His parents bought him several accordions, including one worth $3,000, he said.
Ranko Balac said his wife still cries when she looks at her son's arm.
"Was she the type of person who cried before the tiger attack?" asked Bruce Haines, the Balacs' lawyer.
"Never," Balac replied. The incident has also been tough on him, he added, removing his glasses and wiping his eyes.
In a statement of defence filed with the court, the safari says Balac and Cowles ignored signs posted around the park warning them to keep their windows up and not to feed the animals.
David Balac, who was driving his father's 1988 Honda Prelude, conceded he might have hit the driver's-side window button with his feet when he was struggling to free his arm from Paka's jaw. But he said he knows the passenger-side window was up when they entered the tiger preserve.
Under cross-examination by Doug Wright, a lawyer representing the park, Ranko Balac admitted that when he went to the game park the day after the attack to pick up his car, none of the windows appeared to be shattered, even though he noticed damage to the doors.
"When you show up and see both windows are closed and don't appear to be damaged, you might wonder how tigers got into the car," Wright suggested.
"Yes, I ask myself how," Balac agreed.
"It would seem to be a bit of a mystery, wouldn't it?" Wright asked.
"I don't know how they got into the car," he said.
The trial continues tomorrow.