A young woman volunteering at a zoo in Central California died after a lion attacked her in early March, according to sources. Diana Hanson, 24, was cleaning a cage at Cat Haven, a private zoo in Fresno County when a 550-pound male African lion lifted the partially-open door of the cage and attacked her.
Hanson died immediately of a broken neck, according to Fresno County Coroner David Hadden. The victim’s family believes that the lion may have actually been trying to play with Hanson but the “rough play turned tragic.”
“We’re thankful that she didn’t suffer,” Paul Hanson, Diana’s brother, told the Associated Press. “It sounds like it was an accident. Maybe the latch had not been completely closed … You know, because house cats are smart, they can open doors. It wasn’t a vicious attack … because you would expect severe lacerations and biting on the neck and that was not the case.”
Just because the attack was accidental does not necessarily mean no parties were negligent or this is not a wrongful death. The coroner told reporters that Hanson was on her walkie-talkie at the time of the attack and possibly did not hear the lion enter the cage. Law enforcement and the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) office in California are investigating the incident. If this was a an accident that could have been avoided, OSHA may hold the animal park responsible.
Tip of the week: Read and review all safety procedures and protocols if you are working or volunteering somewhere new. If you have any questions or concerns at all you should ask for assistance.
Dudek Law Firm, APC—San Diego wrongful death attorney