LAS VEGAS Oct. 6 — Ildiko Pataki, a veteran acrobat of the Siegfried & Roy show, heard a loud commotion and instantly knew something had gone badly wrong at The Mirage.
Minutes later, Pataki watched as paramedics rolled out a bloodied Roy Horn on a stretcher. What many feared could happen had finally happened to the Las Vegas icon during a sold-out performance: A tiger had mauled him.
"I was just petrified," said Pataki, 42, who had been with the show for 14 years. "I still cannot tell you how I feel about it. It was a nightmare."
Pataki was one of more than 200 people, many of them show employees, who turned out for a candlelight vigil Sunday night at University Medical Center, where co-headliner Horn is being treated.
Horn, 59, suffered a severe wound to his neck when the 7-year-old male named Montecore attacked without warning Friday night in front of hundreds of people. Nobody was sure Horn would survive, but MGM officials finally delivered some good news at the vigil.
MGM Mirage Resort CEO Bobby Baldwin said Horn's prognosis had improved. Doctors told Baldwin that Horn, who was in critical condition, could move his hands and feet and also gave a thumbs-up sign.
Those who attended chanted, "We love you Roy!" and held their candles in the direction of his hospital room. They described the people who worked in the show as a "tight-knit family" that had been rocked twice.
First, they almost lost Horn. And now they had lost their jobs. With the co-headliner's future uncertain, MGM Mirage officials told the show's 267 employees Saturday night to look for new employment.
MGM Mirage officials said the show was "closed indefinitely." They added that even if Horn recovers, it's unclear whether he would ever be able to perform again in the rigorous show.
"We are not going to sugarcoat this," MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said.
That left show employees wondering about their future and whether the company would pay out the rest of their contracts.
"We are worried about him, but we also basically lost our jobs," said 42-year-old Mary Bryan, a single mother who worked with the acrobats. "We gave this show our heart and soul. It's awful we have to think about money at a time like this."
MGM Mirage officials have promised to help employees land new jobs.
Without the show, the fate of the tigers is also unknown. Montecore continues to be quarantined at the hotel, officials said.
Horn had never been injured during a show before, "not a scratch, not by an animal," said Bernie Yuman, the pair's longtime manager, who added none of the 63 exotic cats "have ever shown aggression on stage."
Horn, along with longtime partner Siegfried Fischbacher, have been a staple on the Las Vegas Strip for years, performing their magic show to sold-out crowds at The Mirage since 1990.
The illusionists, who put on one of the most well-known and expensive Las Vegas shows with their signature white tigers and lions, signed a lifetime contract with the resort in 2001.