PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - A missing Portland man was found dead inside a rhino exhibit at the Oregon Zoo on Monday morning.
Zoo officials said the exhibit is currently under construction so no rhinos were inside at the time.
Police said 62-year-old Carl Ross Sr. was last seen Saturday evening during a concert held at the Oregon Zoo. The Ross family said he and a friend had gone to see George Clinton play live but the two got separated.
“His passion was taking care of his family. He took care of his grandchildren, he took care of his wife,” Ross’s younger sister Perlia Bell said. “That’s why, when he did not come home a red flag was waved.”
According to the family, Ross’s friend asked at least three security guards for help finding him, but they said the response he received was tepid.
“If there’s a lost child they’re going to put all their resources out and shut things down until they find it. We have a man that was lost at a venue and they didn’t find him for days,” Ross’s nephew, Dominique Deweese said.
Perlia told FOX 12, after reporting Ross missing to the police, the family went to the zoo’s front office Monday morning for answers.
“The staff was kind of scattered,” she claimed, adding that at first no one seemed to know a man had been reported missing at the zoo Saturday night.
“They finally figured the police did contact them Sunday night to let them know a person was possibly missing on the grounds," she said.
Ross’s nephew, Hollis McClure, said at that point his uncle had been in the zoo for nearly two days. And, Perlia believes, it was the family’s visit to the zoo that finally prompted zoo officials to search for Ross.
“I believe, had they looked sooner, when the friend said he was missing, my brother may be alive right now,” according to Perlia.
Portland Police Bureau confirms, officers were called to the zoo at 9:49 a.m. Monday, after Ross was found dead inside a construction site for a rhino habitat set to open in 2020, though it is unclear who found his body.
According to a map on the zoo’s Web site, the exhibit is in the middle of the zoo and photos FOX 12 obtained show, the habitat is surrounded by a wooden fence.
According to zoo officials, no animals, staff or contractors were involved in Ross’s death, nor does there appear to have been any foul play. A PPB spokesperson confirms preliminary information seems to rule out foul play.
However, a zoo spokesperson said staff did not issue a code warning when Ross was first reported missing, nor in the days immediately following his disappearance.
He said when someone goes missing in the zoo, protocol is to alert all staff. If they’re not found within 30 minutes, the zoo is then closed off. That did not happen in this case.
“I think somewhere, the ball got dropped,” Perlia said. “Now we have a daughter without a father, a wife that can’t even come talk on television because she’s so distraught. And, we have a son that’s in the Army that’s flying in to bury his father.”
Oregon Zoo officials sent FOX 12 a statement, saying in part, "The Oregon Zoo community is shocked and saddened by this news. We have limited information at this point and are not speculating as to what may have happened, but we are cooperating with Portland Police.”
Ross’s cousin, Charlene Menefee said the family still wants answers.
“We need to find out what really happened to him," Menefee said.
It is still not known how Ross entered the rhino exhibit. Investigators said they are also waiting for the Medical Examiner to release his cause of death.
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