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Saturday, 04 July 2015

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Woman killed by tiger at Cumbria zoo - family's heartache one year on

THE brother of a Cumbria zoo keeper who was mauled by a tiger as she worked has spoken of his heartache one year on from her death.

animal lover Sarah McClay with the penguins at the Dalton zoo in 2012. PHIL RIGBY 50048719F000

Sarah McClay was attacked by Padang, a Sumatran tiger, and dragged 100 yards into the enclosure as she worked at South Lakes Wild Animal Park (now called South Lakes Safari Zoo) on May 24 last year.

Miss McClay, who studied conservation at the University of Cumbria, was given CPR by a police community support officer for around 40 minutes before being airlifted to the Royal Preston Hospital where she later died as a result of her injuries.

On hearing the news her brother Stephen McClay was left helpless in London while her partner David Shaw raced to Preston from a camping trip in Derby in order to be at Miss McClay’s side.

Following the death of her father in 2010 Miss McClay grew close to her brother, who said, in a moving tribute, he still thinks of things to say to her.

Mr McClay said: “It has obviously been a very hard year and I still don’t know how to answer the question ‘Have you got any brothers and sisters?’

“I used to always say ‘two’ but now I don’t know what to say.

“If I say ‘one’ it feels like she never existed at all.

“Every other day I think of something I want to tell her or ask her about and when I try to think of someone else to tell instead, I come to the conclusion ‘no, Sarah was the only one who would get this’.”

Mr McClay, who works as a French teacher in London, said he has had to field questions from curious pupils who have Googled his name and found links to the story.

However, the former Dowdales School pupil said the words and actions of friends have left a big impression on the family and brought them comfort in the months after his sister’s death.

The family requested well-wishers made donations to the Red Squirrel Survival Trust, a charity close to Miss McClay’s heart.

Around £7,000 has been raised in the year following her death and the South Lakes branch of the group, which Miss McClay helped to establish, is working on a project in tribute to the lively 24-year-old.

Mr McClay added: “I’m very pleased that such a large amount of money was raised for charity when Sarah died.

“Not only will this money mean that something positive will come out of the tragedy but also the fact that it’s for a cause that was so close to her heart.

“The donations were a way for people to do something more than just offer condolences and that was a big help because ‘is there anything I can do?’ is a question that we were asked a lot around that time.

“It was also extremely touching to read all the comments that people left along with their donations.

“Most of them were from family and friends but I was moved to see donations from the families of children I taught at my work, former teachers from my own school days and also from complete strangers.”

Janet Wickens, director of the Red Squirrel Survival Trust, said: “The donations to us have been ring fenced for the South Lakes.

“It’s a stunning amount of money to be raised and reflects how much she was loved in the area.”

Barrow Borough Council’s investigation into the circumstances of Miss McClay’s death continues after it was handed over from the police on August 21.

A council spokeswoman said: “The council received handover of the investigation from the police on August 21, 2013.

“The purpose of an investigation is to establish all the facts and reach a conclusion.

“There is no limit on the length of an investigation and it is more important that it is thorough than conducted to a timescale.

“We will therefore continue until such a time that we are satisfied that all the facts have been obtained.”

David Gill, owner of South Lakes Safari Zoo, said staff have chosen to mark the anniversary of Miss McClay’s death privately and no service would take place at the zoo.

He said a memorial garden, dedicated to Miss McClay and 14-year-old schoolgirl Bethany Crook, who was killed after being hit by a minibus on the A590, would be part of his zoo’s expansion.

Have your say

My deepest Heartfelt Thoughts & prayers go out to the family & friends to the Miss McClay as always ! Unfortunately some folk choose it to announce a further expansion of there property, with No service, Real Class?

Posted by A Reader. on 26 May 2014 at 01:51

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