Elephant trainers still don't know what caused escape

ST. CHARLES, Mo. (KSDK) - The Moolah Shriners are standing by the circus company involved in the elephant escape at the Family Arena Saturday. The circus is a fundraiser for the organization, which hires a company to put on the performances.

The shows went on as planned Saturday night and Sunday. But, per the trainer's advice, the elephants were left out of the shows to give them time to rest. The three elephants busted out of the venue Saturday and into the parking lot, damaging two trucks and two trailers. The Shriners tell us trainers still don't know why the elephants escaped, but witnesses tell us it was very loud inside the arena when it happened.

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Visitors we spoke with Sunday say they had heard about the incident.

"Stuff happens, they're animals!" Angie Englemeyer said.

"It was a little unnerving at first but I think as long as we watch our kids and pay attention to what's going on we should be ok," Angie Usery said.

The Moolah Shriners say the people most upset about the incident were the trainers themselves.

"The trainer was almost in tears," said Moolah Shrine President Dennis Kelley. "She loves these animals, and it affected her very deeply."

And, Kelley says the organization is standing by Royal Hanneford, the circus company it's been using for more than a decade.

"It's an excellent circus, they just put on a great show. We've never had a situation like this before," Kelley said.

The Hanneford Family Circus has been around since the early 1800's, according to the company's website, and operates out of Florida. We searched for USDA inspection reports and found two, both from 2011. They both show the circus was compliant with guidelines. NewsChannel 5 has requested more extensive records.

"We're a family organization, we help kids. We wouldn't do anything to jeopardize that relationship at all. Everybody we deal with is reputable," Kelley said.

The Moolah Shrine Circus raises money for the Shriners Hospital network, and to help children with medical needs.


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