Spectators watch in horror as animal trainer is left fighting for life after tiger bit him on the neck at Steve Irwin's zoo
The 30-year-old man suffered puncture wounds to the neck in the incident described by one visitor as 'horrifying'
He suffered two large puncture wounds to the neck and was airlifted to hospital after being pulled to safety by colleagues
Shocking attack was witnessed by as many as 50 horrified visitors
A tiger trainer has been flown to hospital by helicopter after one of the animals bit him on the neck at the Australia Zoo, opened by the late crocodile hunter Steve Irwin.
David Styles, 30, suffered puncture wounds to the neck in the incident described by one visitor as 'horrifying.'
He was treated by paramedics before being flown to a flown to the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital by the RACQ Careflight helicopter in a serious condition.
He was conscious and breathing, but was sustained two large puncture wounds from the attack. .
The zoo is famous throughout the world as it was owned by crocodile hunter Steve Irwin who was killed by a stingray barb while swimming off the North Queensland coast in 2006.
Australia Zoo director Wes Mennon was quick to comment the actions of a group of zoo keepers nearby who saw the attack and helped drag the trainer away from the tiger.
He said: 'At the time of the incident, our emergency response team were on the scene immediately.
'They acted professionally and calmly. My hat goes off to them.'
Mr Mennon said Mt Styles had nine years experience with big cats and had raised the tiger since it arrived at the zoo as a cub.
He added: 'Our priority is the wellbeing of the handler, who is a valued member of our Australia Zoo family. Our full support is with the handler and family.'
The shocking attack was witnessed by as many as 50 people, among them 14 year old Jake D'Olimpio, who told the Courier Mail that the incident occurred during a performance with the tiger.
He said he saw the tiger jump on the front of the trainer and lunge at the man's neck with his jaws.
He said: 'It was horrifying.They fell in the water and the tiger was trying to hold him under.
'The other trainers, maybe four of them, tried to fight the tiger off. One of them was hitting it with a stick.'
Prior to the attack, Jake told the paper, the trainer had been patting and playing with the tiger.
'It was an accident,' he insisted. 'It was not an act of aggression. It was part of a routine and just an unfortunate mistake.'
Asked what would happen to the tiger, Mr Wes Mannion, the zoo's director, said: 'Nothing.'
The zoo keeps three Bengal and eight Sumatran tigers. Visitors are offered the chance to be photographed with the animals every afternoon.
In 2009 there were two attacks on keepers at the zoo, one by a Bengal tiger and another by a Sumatran tiger, in both cases the keepers were hospitalised but recovered from their injuries.
It remains unclear what caused this atack but it is thought to be the most serious in the zoos history.
Steve Irwin's widow, Terri, still has involvement with the zoo and the crocodile hunter's children Bindi and Bob are young TV stars in both Australia and the US.
Mr Irwin, who shot to fame as the star of the hit show The Crocodile Hunter, died on September 4, 2006, aged 44.
He was swimming with stingrays in the Great Barrier Reef when, it is thought, one of the fish went into defensive mode. It flipped up its tail and hit Steve in the chest with a barb that pierced his heart.
His daughter Bindil, then aged eight captivated the world when she strode onto the stage at her father's funeral to give a tear-jerking eulogy in front of 5,000 people and 300 million TV viewers.
In her address she described the conservationist as 'my hero', adding, 'He listened to me and taught me so many things, but most of all he was fun.'
Now 15 she is a TV presenter, wildlife campaigner and Hollywood film star in her own right and continues to work towards her father's conservationist goals.
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