SAN ANTONIO — A day after a large Cedar Elm tree limb crashed to the ground, injuring seven people, Thursday's work at the San Antonio Zoo was focused on recovery and making sure zoo guests are safe.
A zoo official said most of the tree removal work was completed quickly. Restoration workers spent Thursday replacing a utility pole and the communication lines that were damaged when the weighty limb snapped.
While repair efforts continued, zoo officials said their thoughts remained on the people who were injured Wednesday.
Six of the seven people hurt have been released from the hospital that day, but one child was hospitalized until March 26, according to University Health.
"We are concerned for them," said Hope Roth, the zoo's vice president for marketing. "We are thinking of them and everyone here is sending our thoughts and prayers."
Roth says the tree that crashed appeared healthy.
"Spring is definitely upon us and this tree, even more than some of the others here in the park, it looked very healthy," she said. "It was a very unusual event that took place. It was very unexpected."
The area around the crashed tree limb was "immediately closed off by zoo security and first responders, including San Antonio Park Police," Roth said.
She said the location sits on the perimeter of the zoo with direct access for emergency personnel, so other areas of the zoo were not affected and remained open for zoo visitors.
Roth said the zoo's staff was re-doubling their efforts Thursday to make sure all the trees are safe.
"We are working with our internal and our external professionals to do that investigation. What happened? Why did that happen? And also to check the others to ensure that this unusual event does not occur again."
Roth said they realize that while people come to see animals, the health of the ecosystem is important also, for both people and the animals.
"We have hundreds of trees on property, and the horticulture team here does an amazing job. It is such a beautiful place to come and get out and get close to nature. It also serves as an education, not only for small children and students, but also for adults," Roth said.
While the early morning rain made for a slow start, a flood of zoo patrons returned, taking a chance and dodging showers, saying they wish only good outcomes for the injured child, and they believe the zoo remains a safe and welcoming place to play.
Rachael Lucero brought her family from Lubbock. She said they heard about the crash yesterday, but they believed their visit would be a good one.
"We totally feel safe and comfortable coming to the zoo today," Lucero said, adding that the family decided to come to San Antonio after a trip to the San Diego Zoo and hearing good things.
"The San Antonio Zoo has so much to offer. We heard that this zoo is pretty comparable to that." Lucero added she and her family are praying for those injured in the incident.
The Lansley family traveled from Austin, saying they believe the zoo staff did a really good job of trying to restore order.
"We'll check it out and make sure it's safe to walk and look for loose branches with the weather and all the things thing have been happening and we'll be extra careful," Nicole Lansley said.
Zoo officials said in addition to seeing to the needs of the injured, they're also helping their own team members.
They say the zoo is usually a happy place and they want to help anyone who may be having trouble dealing with yesterday's frightening crash to reach out.
"The zoo crew is a family here and we do offer services and we have sent emails out and information to our zoo crew that anything that they are experiencing, we have services that are available for them," Roth said. "We are looking after not only our staff, but our guests and those that were affected by this."