Siegfried: Tiger wanted to help Roy
(CNN) -- Despite reports to the contrary, Siegfried Fischbacher said Wednesday that the white tiger named Montecore did not maul his partner, magician Roy Horn, during a Las Vegas, Nevada, show last week.
Instead, Fischbacher said on CNN's "Larry King Live," Montecore attempted to help his trainer offstage after Horn fell down.
"A tiger, when he grabs you, it's the strength," Fischbacher said. "He thinks it's another tiger, and another tiger has [thick] skin like this, and the fur."
The tiger put its jaws around Horn's neck to lift him as a mother cat does with her cubs, Fischbacher said in the interview, his first since the accident.
Unaware of its strength, the 7-year-old tiger ended up causing Horn severe injuries that have left the performer in critical condition since Friday's show, he said.
Audience members who witnessed the show at the MGM Mirage said it appeared the tiger momentarily lashed out at his trainer, mauling him and then dragging him offstage.
One audience member said Horn looked like a rag doll in the tiger's mouth.
"Listen, I say it was an accident," Fischbacher said. "If it would be that the tiger would be out for killing Roy, it would [have happened] in no time."
Fischbacher spoke from Los Angeles, California, just two hours after visiting his longtime performing partner in a Las Vegas hospital.
He said Horn is responding and communicating. "His color is back," Fischbacher said.
Fischbacher and the duo's manager, Bernie Yuman, said the 59-year-old Horn had a stroke after suffering massive blood loss in the attack and has had two surgeries since then.
"Roy has the will of a thousand men, and I think probably a lesser man wouldn't have gotten to this point," Yuman said. "We really believe that we're about to turn the corner."
"I always say I'm the magician, and he's the magic," Fischbacher said. "He's doing his magic. He's so strong, he's unbelievable."
There has been no change in Horn's condition since the attack Friday, hospital officials said. Horn remains in critical condition.
CNN learned Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched an investigation of the show for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.
The act requires that during public exhibition an animal must be handled in such a way that there is minimal risk of harm to both the animal and the public, a USDA spokesman said.
There must also be "sufficient distance and/or barriers between animal and audience," the spokesman said.
In the Siegfried & Roy show, the audience sat close to the stage with no barriers.
Agriculture inspectors would not say specifically what they are investigating, but public officials in Las Vegas are considering whether there should be new regulations.
The USDA conducted routine inspections of the Siegfried & Roy show four times in the past three years and found no violations. There was one inspection in 2000, two in 2001, and one last December, the USDA spokesman said.
Fischbacher said he has been overwhelmed by the public support he and Horn have received since the accident.
"I never [could] imagine that Siegfried & Roy was that popular and loved," he said. "What we achieved is something. This is bigger. This is huge."
Combining magic tricks with tiger stunts, Siegfried & Roy have performed on the Las Vegas strip for nearly 30 years.
CNN correspondent Jeff Flock contributed to this report.