Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Lion lunges through 'open window' to fatally maul #American #tourist in #SouthAfrica

An American tourist mauled to death Monday by a lion in a South African drive-through wild animal park had lowered her car window to get better photos when the big cat pounced, according to park officials.

The tourist, who was not identified, and her tour guide were violating park policy and safety signs and warnings when they drove up to a pride of lions with both the driver's and passenger's windows open, according to a park statement emailed to the Los Angeles Times.

"According to witnesses a lioness then began slowly walking towards the vehicle. The lady was taking pictures of this lion, which then stopped about a meter or two away from the vehicle. Witnesses state that the lady still had her window fully open at this point when the lion lunged towards the car. It then bit the lady through the open window," the statement said.

"Witnesses that were in the enclosure at the time confirmed that both the passenger and drivers windows were open as the driver drove up to the pride of lions," according to the statement from Lion Park a popular south African tourist destination.

The statement described a series of frantic events as the driver "tried to fend off the lion and get it to release the lady," and was himself injured by the animal. Park staffers "rushed to the vehicle and chased the lion away." Staffers began treating the injured woman until an ambulance "arrived within minutes."

But it was too late.

"Unfortunately while the paramedics were treating the lady she did pass away from her injuries. The driver was taken to hospital for treatment to the injuries he sustained however his injuries are not life threatening," the statement said.

On Tuesday, the park was open to the public, according to the Associated Press, which quoted a park spokeswoman as saying the tourist attraction would "operate as normal."

The statement said that the park -- whose website promises that you can get "super up-close animal views" -- offers a unique and safe experience, as long as safety precautions are followed:

"It is incredibly sad that a life had to be lost in this manner -- visitors to South Africa need to remember that predators are dangerous and rules are there for their own safety, if all the rules are adhered to your visit to the Lion Park, national parks and other similar facilities will be a safe and treasured experience."

The statement added: "We would like to assure everyone that we will not euthanize the lioness. The lioness will remain under our care."

It is unclear if, when, or how, the American tourist will be identified. The U.S. Embassy in South Africa took to Twitter to confirm the death, but also Tweeted that no additional information would be forthcoming out of respect for the victim's family.

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