Fear and Loathing in Pittsburgh: The Online Mauling of a Parent Just Like You

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About Bethany Bateman

Bethany Bateman is a licensed social worker with many years experience working with parents, families, and children in the Pittsburgh area. Her professional areas of interest are child development and mood disorders in adolescents and young adults. Currently working in academia, she lives with her husband in Fort Worth, TX. First and foremost, though, she will always be a Pittsburgher.


  1. Thoughtful article Bethany! I can’t go along with the witch hunt of the mother. It was a horrible and tragic accident that ended the little one’s death. As human beings with empathy, and imperfections ourselves, why not show some compassion to the mother who will live with a nightmare, with every breath she takes, for the rest of her life. To all the infallible mother/fathers/judgemental persons who fling their superior attitude around like it’s reality…get over yourselves, and do some soul searching, if you dare.

  2. *ended in the little one’s death*

  3. Mary Lou Monheim says:

    Thank you for such a sane reply for this attack on a mother.Fact is mothers cannot always protect their children be they 2 or 33. I hope your artical brings her some peace. You can feel the love in your writing well done.

  4. Amen. I am a mother of five (including triplets). My husband and I raised our children living away from extended family so we had very little help of any kind. We used to joke that while we aimed to raise well adjusted, happy, healthy, productive members of society, our primary goal each day was to keep our children alive. We received a mixed bag of responses to this comment, but other parents of large families seemed to relate to the sentiment. My husband and I were both well aware that at any time the unforseen could happen. Even when we, as parents, do our very best to prevent it, tragedy could strike. A car, a body of water, a kidnapper or a fall could rob us of our precious child at any time. We all do our best and when one of us loses the most precious possible gift we should all feel empathy for the family and mourn along with them….and hug our own children a little tighter…..and realize how very lucky we are to still have them to hold….for we are not perfect. I feel blessed every day that I never had to endure such a horrific experience in my life and I pray that I never will. I hope that this family will someday find peace.

  5. R. Todd Erkel says:

    Brave and thorough writing. Every time I approached that exhibit at the Pgh Zoo it caused me pause — it never felt adequately planned or protected. I was disheartened by the Zoo’s official public response.

  6. Thank you so much for writing this article. I must admit that I too was devastated and furious when I first read about this tragedy. I think that people always look for a reason to explain something so horrible…perhaps it’s our human need to convince ourselves that horror is not random but that someone or something is always responsbilbe. This helps us deal with our fear that the world is chaos….something we cannot bear to believe.

    Then I found out her name and googled it. What came up was her Pinterest page. It is still up and I think anyone who vilifies her should go to it. There are countless pictures of little boy’s rooms decorated with trucks and there are several photos of Thomas the Tank Engine railroad tables. Everything was about him and the love she had for him was palpable on those pages. I knew then that this was a horrific accident and I began to cry for her. I am still crying for her because her life is ruined and no, she was not irresponsible and she did absolutely nothing that any parent with a visually impaired child wouldn’t have done. Dear God, how could you let this happen? Please take care of Mrs. Derkosh.

    • Sadly the events of how the child fell were misreported, and it took a few weeks for the final report to come out. Elizabeth did not dangle the child on the railing as it was reported, nor did she stand him on the railing. Somehow, Maddox lunged out of her arms, and that was the end.

      We live in a world where Zookeeper do not carry guns, but teachers are suppose to.

      I suspects I will think about this child for the rest of my life, as I will the 20 children in Sandy Hook. We expects Zoos and schools to be 100 percent safe. Both tragedies are unspeakable.

      Loosing a child to illness is unbearable, losing a child in this manner is beyond comprehension. I would be ruined beyond repair.

      Pray for these families.

  7. Meiyen says:

    I know it has been several months since this article and the tragedy occurred. When I first heard the story, I felt nothing but anguish, horror, and PAINFUL sympathy for Elizabeth Derkosh. I found a Facebook page of mothers who banded together to write letters of support to Elizabeth, and I joined them. As a mother, it is still so, so hard for me to think about what happened, and I spent several virtually sleepless nights over the tragedy, thinking of what Elizabeth Derkosh must be going through. I felt angry when I read the judgmental statements of so many. At the end of the day, all of those people who were so quick to judge did not have to come home to an empty toddler’s bedroom full of trucks and no one to play with them…they did not have to plan and sit through a funeral for their mauled baby boy…and they don’t have to live with this horror for the rest of their lives. My heart hurts terribly for Elizabeth Derkosh, even to this day. Of course she has feelings of guilt – what parent wouldn’t? But that doesn’t mean she’s a bad or negligent parent, or that she’s any worse a mother than anyone else. This was just a terrible accident. My prayers continue to go out for the Derkosh family. You are always on my heart, as is little Maddox.

    • So, now the mother has filed a civil suit against the zoo for a minimum or 300K in damages. I was curious if this would change anybody’s opinion, or your thought’s on the case. This is the first source I have found that presents some good arguments against fault and for sympathy.

      • The Derkosh,s should bankrupt the Zoo, and it still would not be enough. Call me a blue state liberal, but a family zoo needs to be childproof. i will go further to say, the schools in Ok should have storm cellars, and mentally I’ll teenagers should not have AR-15″s.

        We can not stop every act of violence and tragedy but schools need to safe and children ca not be attacked at zoos. that exhibit was a disaster waiting to happen.

        I would eater die in the pit with my child then face this the rest of my life.

        pray for the child and family.

  8. Maryland Mom says:

    What a terrific article. Thank you for writing this. We as parents are ALL guilty of multiple mistakes and missteps and oversights that could end in tragedy. But most of the time we get lucky. Mrs. Derkosh didn’t. But she is no worse a parent that any of us. It’s impossible to be perfect all the time. The haters feel otherwise because it makes them believe their fate is in their control. And the sad reality is that we have very very little control. Most of life is luck.

  9. Yes, it’s a horrific occurrence, but the parents are to blame.

    It’s interesting to hear that the parents are apparently asking for **more money** from their civil suit.


  1. [...] a well-researched piece, Bethany Bateman wrote about how statistically, the parents whose children are harmed in freak accidents like that one are exactly like you and me. I’ve held my kids up to see over the railing of an enclosure. Haven’t you? I probably [...]

  2. [...] talking about? Think about all the shitty, emotionally distant parents who blew their gaskets when some little kid fell to his death at the Pittsburgh Zoo; think about all of the adulterers and pedophiles who rushed to lambaste everybody from Chuck Robb [...]

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