Toys donated to honor toddler mauled at zoo

Justin Merriman/Tribune Review, Associated Press

A woman collects toy trucks at the funeral of 2-year-old Maddox Derkosh at Saint Bernard Church in Mount Lebanon, Pa. Maddox was killed last week after he fell from a wooden railing overlooking the painted dogs exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium and bled to death after being mauled by the dogs.

The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH – Toy construction trucks have been pouring into the funeral home handling arrangements for a 2-year-old boy who was fatally mauled when he fell into a wild dog exhibit at the Pittsburgh zoo.

The parents of Maddox Derkosh requested the toys instead of flowers because their son liked to play with trucks and share them with friends. More than 3,000 have been donated, and the William Slater II funeral home says it would continue accepting the trucks even after the boy’s funeral Friday.

The family intends to donate the trucks to a charity that will distribute them to needy children on Christmas.

“We will never forget this as long as we live,” funeral director William Slater said Thursday as he stood among dozens of toy trucks in a viewing room.

Even the family’s priest, the Rev. David Bonnar, was moved to comment on the toys during his funeral sermon, telling Jason and Elizabeth Derkosh that soliciting toy donations for other children is both generous and a wise first step in the grieving process.

“One of the first steps in healing is to think less of oneself and more of others,” Bonnar said. “God knows you have a rough road ahead, but with this effort, the healing has already begun.”

Investigations continue into the boy’s death, which happened after he fell from a wooden railing overlooking the exhibit last week at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.

The boy’s mother placed him on the rail and he somehow slipped away, bounced off a small net and fell about 10 feet more into the enclosed exhibit.

The county medical examiner determined that the boy survived the fall but bled to death from the attack, which zoo officials said staff members couldn’t stop because it happened so quickly.

In addition to an internal zoo review, the death is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, an accrediting organization. Neither is expected to announce findings soon.

It appears to be an accident that won’t result in criminal charges, said Mike Manko, a spokesman for the Allegheny County district attorney’s office, which is waiting for other information before closing the case. The district attorney also expects the observation platform above the exhibit to be improved, Manko said.

Toy trucks can be donated directly to the funeral home.

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