After Jenna Krehbiel had finished watching the tiger show at the Isis Shrine Circus on Saturday at the Salina Bicentennial Centennial Center, she decided to go to the bathroom but instead got a close-up view of a large cat she had just seen performing in the arena.
“I went in to use the bathroom, and a lady came in to get her daughter out and said there was a tiger loose,” Krehbiel said. “I didn’t know it was in the bathroom, and I walked in the (open) door, which closed right after I had walked in. I saw the tiger; it was at most two feet in front of me, and I turned around calmly and walked back toward the door. Someone opened the door and said get out.”
The woman went on, revealing to reporters that the tiger she met in the bathroom “wasn’t the biggest one” performing, but she estimated it was more than 250 pounds.
“It was the closest I have ever been to a tiger not in a cage,” Krehbiel said. “You don’t expect to go in a bathroom door, have it shut behind you and see a tiger walking toward you.”
Chris Bird, manager at the Bicentennial Center, explained that the jungle cat escaped during the show, and staff quickly barricaded off the concourse.
He also added that the tiger veered off into an open bathroom and a security guard got people out, shut the door behind the tiger and barricaded the door, but forgot about the other one, the one Krehbiel went into.
The circus manager said he hadn’t heard about Krehbiel’s account until contacted by journalists but confirmed that it was “definitely accurate,” but he doesn’t know how close she got to the tiger, reports .
“I am sure she saw the tiger because the bathroom is only 25 feet long,” Bird said. “Once she saw the tiger, I’m sure she knew to go the other way. Overall, it was a scary, surreal moment. I am glad no one was hurt or injured.”
The woman said her husband talked with a circus employee who assured that the animals are well trained and there was no risk. She said he told them the tiger is a wild animal.
Mr Bird revealed that a veterinarian from Rolling Hills Zoo came to check on the animal last night and confirmed that the tiger the tiger was OK.
Krehbiel was asked why she didn’t scream or run when she saw a large beast in the bathroom. She attributed that to her training as a social worker.
“I’m always on alert, and it was easy to walk out; that’s how I am trained,” Krehbiel said. “Looking back, it was a scary ordeal. At the time, I was thinking I just needed to get out.”
“My daughter wanted to know if it had washed its hands,” Krehbiel said. “That was her only concern. I think that shows the thoughts of children and that they wouldn’t have known there was danger.”
As far as future trips to the circus, Krehbiel isn’t sure. “We’ll see,” Krehbiel said. “I prefer a zoo, where I know they won’t get loose.”