Leapin' Lizard: L.A. Zoo Speaks Up

06/25/2001 at 03:56 PM EDT

The Los Angeles Zoo has now stepped forward with its own report on the June 9 attack on San Francisco Chronicle executive editor Phil Bronstein, 50, by the zoo's 7-ft. Komodo dragon -- and it contrasts dramatically with reports given by Bronstein and his wife, actress Sharon Stone, 43. While Stone stayed outside the cage, Bronstein was instructed to remove his white sneakers for fear the reptile might mistake them for his usual meal of live rats. But Bronstein's left white sock ended up attracting the lizard's serrated teeth, tearing several tendons and crushing his big toe. After Bronstein pried the lizard's jaws open, his wife said, the editor crawled out the cage's feeding door and was taken by paramedics to an L.A. hospital. Later making light of the incident, he told his own paper, "It's L.A. I was just taking a meeting." But the zoo now says that a one of its workers actually forced the dragon to release Bronstein's toe as Stone screamed hysterically. "I tried to calm her down. She said that the bite was bad, down to the bone," zoo official Genie Vasels said in her written account. Stone, who initially said she did not blame zoo officials, last week publicly denounced them as "irresponsible" for letting her husband into the Komodo's enclosure. Stone's publicist, Pat Kingsley, told the L.A. Times that she had no trouble believing Bronstein's account. "He was a war correspondent," she said. "He's used to difficult situations."

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