Intern Killed by Lion in Cat Sanctuary near Fresno

March 8, 2013

Diana Hanson, 24, an intern at a big cat sanctuary in Dunlap, Calif., was mauled to death by a lion on March 6, 2013. According to an ABC News report, the fatal incident occurred at the Cat Haven in Dunlap, a small town in Fresno County near Kings Canyon National Park. Officials say Hanson was inside the cat enclosure when a 4-year-old African lion named Cous Cous attacked her. It was not immediately clear what Hanson was doing inside the enclosure or what caused the attack.

'Her True Passion in Life'

Another employer unsuccessfully tried to lure the lion away from Hanson. The lion was eventually shot by a Fresno County sheriff's deputy who responded to the call. The park was closed at the time of the attack and there were no visitors inside. Hanson's father tells ABC News that his daughter loved being around large cats and that working with them was her true passion in life. Hanson trained with three tigers and a lion while in college at Western Washington State University, her father said.

Ongoing Investigation

Based on this news report, officials are still trying to determine what caused this attack. The lion had apparently been raised at the preserve by the owner since he was an 8-week-old cub. Employees at the reserve were also puzzled about how and why Hanson got into the lion's space.

There are several unanswered questions here. What type of security did the lion's cage have? What were policies and procedures at the sanctuary when it comes to handling the cats and stepping into the cages? Did Cat Haven have a written policy in place? Were all employees, volunteers and interns trained with regard to those safety procedures? I trust officials are looking into these and other issues in order to determine precisely what occurred here and why. A wrongful death lawsuit is a possibility.

It is not clear if anyone's negligence played a part in Hanson's tragic death. I hope that her grieving family members and friends get answers to their questions. In such cases, it would also be in the best interests of victims' families to contact an experienced California personal injury lawyer who will stay on top of the official investigation and ensure that the victims' and their families' rights are protected.