A lion’s cage door was left open at a cat sanctuary in California, leading to an attack that left a volunteer dead.
A coroner looking into the Wednesday death of Dianna Hanson said that the lion used its paw to lift a partially open cage door and escape from its feeding cage. The lion then went on to attack Hanson, who was cleaning a tiger enclosure.
Fresno County Coroner David Hadden said the lion attack left the 24-year-old Hanson with a broken neck, and that she died almost instantly.
“The lion had been fed, the young woman was cleaning the large enclosure, and the lion was in the small cage,” Hadden said, adding that the lion’s cage door was left open. “He ran at the young lady.”
Police shot and killed the lion, but Hanson was already dead. Hadden noted that she had bite and claw marks on her body, but they came after she was already dead. The 4-year-old lion, named Couscous, reportedly attacked the woman at roughly 12:30 on Wednesday.
The setting for the fatal lion attack, called Project Survival’s Cat Haven, is a sanctuary for big cats. Couscous arrived at Cat Haven when he was eight weeks old and lived there ever since, said Tanya Osegueda, a spokeswoman for Project Survival.
Cat Haven is normally closed on Wednesdays, the day the attack took place. Only workers were present during the attack.
Dale Anderson, owner of Cat Haven, extended his sympathy to the family of Dianna Hanson.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to her friends and family at this time,” he said, adding, “We’ll keep you posted as things progress around here.”
Before it was learned that the lion’s cage door was left open, investigators believed that Dianna Hanson had gotten into the lion’s cage somehow. Hanson’s father said that she was very comfortable around animals, and described the internship as her “dream job.”