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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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Barrow woman killed by tiger attack at Dalton Zoo

THE death of a Barrow woman who was attacked by a tiger at South Lakes Wild Animal Park at Dalton in Cumbria has been described as 'inexplicable'.

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Cumbria Police have confirmed the identity of the 24-year-old woman who died as Sarah McClay from the Barrow area.

She was attacked by a tiger within its enclosure yesterday afternoon and died about 8pm last night.

Miss McClay was taken by air ambulance to Royal Preston Hospital following the attack.

Police and Barrow Borough Council are continuing to investigate the circumstances that led to the incident.

Miss McClay’s family are very shocked and distressed and have requested that they have privacy as they try to come to terms with their loss.

A spokeswoman for the North West Ambulance service described Sarah's injuries as the result of being 'mauled' by the tiger.

David Gill, the owner and founder of South Lakes Wild Animal Park, said Ms McClay was very experienced in looking after big cats and that he had no explanation as to why she may have entered the enclosure.

He said: "After investigation by the authorities here and the police, it does seem that she just basically failed to follow the correct procedures.

"For some unknown reason, an inexplicable reason, because there is no reason for why she did it, she opened the door and went into the tiger enclosure and straight into the tigers, and now we'll never know why."

Mr Gill said Miss McClay had worked at the wildlife park for a number of years and was "very proficient" in her work with big cats.

He said that it was against strict safety protocols to walk into the tiger's cage, adding that the zoo had passed a major inspection on Monday, in which it was praised for its safety standards.

The incident happened at about 4pm, when staff were working as normal and the park was open to the public.

Mr Gill said: "An emergency call went out over the radio and we responded immediately. I was on the scene within 30 seconds.
"It was just unfortunate that everything happened so quick. It's so difficult to talk about because it was so upsetting.
"We moved all the public back of course. I think one member of the public did witness a part of the attack but I don't think there was anyone else who saw that."

Emphasising that at no point was there any threat to the public, he said: "It just seems quite inexplicable. None of us have been able to come up with a really reasonable conclusion.

"All we know is that no one else was involved, there was nobody with her, and for some unknown reason she opened a door and walked straight into the tigers."

Mr Gill described Miss McClay as "a very passionate girl, very enthusiastic" who was "extremely good at delivering conservation talks. A very valued part of our team. A very bubbly character, a very happy girl."

He said that Miss McClay's death was the second tragedy for the park this month, after another employee, Bethany Crook was killed in a road accident. Following Miss McClay's death the staff felt they wanted the park to carry on, Mr Gill said.

"There was a huge consensus of opinion that we should carry on. It's not the park's fault if you will. It's not going to do anybody any good if we closed."

Mr Gill told said there were no plans to have the tiger put down, a Sumatran tiger which has been at the park for 10 years since it was a cub.

He said: "He didn't make the mistake. He was just there. It's so difficult because we don't blame him for what has happened.
"It would be very much a tragedy for him. He's one of the rarest animals in the world, a Sumatran tiger, and it's something we don't want to do."

Police and Barrow Borough Council are investigating the circumstances that led to this incident.

Have your say

Glenn Doherty, don't judge until you know the facts. Let the police & HSE do their job. As for Mr Gill, if you'd met him or had dealings with him you might see him in a different light. Passionate about his park, yes, but he would do well do learn some social skills and humility.

Posted by tom on 28 May 2013 at 13:56

Well said Glenn Doherty i could not have put it better myself

Posted by Mark on 28 May 2013 at 10:19

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