Two Versions of Komodo Tale

ByABC News

June 26, 2001 -- The Phil Bronstein vs. the Komodo dragon saga has taken yet another strange twist: The Los Angeles Zoo recently gave its own account of the June 9 attack, one that contradicts what both Bronstein and his actress wife, Sharon Stone, have said about the beastly encounter.

When a large Komodo dragon attacked the San Francisco Chronicle executive editor, his movie star wife provided a gripping account of Bronstein's bare-handed bravery in subduing the massive 7-foot-long lizard.

Zookeeper to the Rescue?

Now, the Los Angeles Zoo says that a zoo worker actually forced the dragon to release Bronstein's toe as Stone screamed hysterically.

"Komo without warning bit Phil on his left foot and held on," reptile keeper Jay Kilgore said in a written account of the attack in the dragon's cage, which Bronstein and Stone were touring as part of a behind-the-scenes look at zoo operations.

"I grabbed Komo by his neck and yelled at him. He let go after an estimated one or two seconds. I pulled Komo away from Phil and yelled at Phil to get out of the exhibit. After a delay of perhaps 10 to 15 seconds, Phil stepped out of the exhibit. I had been repeatedly yelling at Phil to get out," Kilgore wrote.

The eyewitness accounts, required by the zoo in cases of animal mishaps, were obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

The reptile keeper's version of the dragon attack differs from accounts offered by Bronstein and Stone, which credited Bronstein with besting the 4-year-old, 55-pound Indonesian monitor lizard.

Bronstein's own newspaper, in its June 14 account of the incident, said the editor "slammed his foot down, anchoring the dragon's lower jaw to the ground. … Bronstein pried the dragon's upper jaw off his foot, hobbled away, and dived for the door."

Nurse Stone Gets Involved

The official zoo report also gave a slightly different version of Stone's role. While crediting the movie star with using a sock tourniquet to stanch the bleeding from her husband's toe, they said she then stepped out of the enclosure to make cell phone calls to relatives.

"She was hysterical," Genie Vasels, an official from the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, the fund-raising arm of the zoo, said in her written account. "I tried to calm her down. She said that the bite was bad, down to the bone."

The zoo said the general curator, Michael Dee, then called for an ambulance as zoo workers applied ice packs.

"He looked scared and pale," Vasels said of Bronstein. "I apologized to Phil. He kept shaking his head, saying, 'This is not your fault, it is not the zoo's fault. I made the choice to go into the exhibit.'"

Recuperating and Sticking to His Story

The Times noted that Stone, who initially said she did not blame zoo officials, this week publicly denounced them as "irresponsible" for letting her husband into the Komodo's enclosure.

Stone's publicist, Pat Kingsley, told the newspaper the different accounts were devolving into a "he-said, she-said thing," and added that she had no trouble believing Bronstein's version of events.

"He was a war correspondent," Kingsley noted, curiously. "He's used to difficult situations."

Bronstein is still recuperating and taking antibiotics. A Komodo's bite can be deadly if not treated.

Zoo officials said Bronstein was invited into the lizard's enclosure after taking off his white sneakers and white socks, which they feared the dragon might mistake for its favorite snack — white rats.

Bronstein, who suffered ripped tendons and a crushed big toe, told the Saturday Chronicle that he was sticking to his story but hoped the whole thing would blow over.

"This was a bizarre accident that became something far larger than it should be. But that's how it goes when a movie star and a dragon are involved," he said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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