A 24-year-old zoo worker mauled by a tiger at an animal park in Cumbria in northern England has succumbed to her injuries, police said on Saturday.
Sarah McClay was in the big cat enclosure when she was mauled at South Lakes Wild Animal Park in Dalton-in-Furness on Friday afternoon.
She was taken by air ambulance to Royal Preston Hospital immediately after the incident, where she later died.
McClay was from the Barrow-in-Furness area. Cumbria police described her death as “tragic“.
In a statement, the force said, “Sarah’s family are very shocked and distressed and request that they have privacy as they try to come to terms with their loss. Police and Barrow Borough Council are continuing to investigate the circumstances that led to this terrible incident”.
Officers said the tiger was locked in its enclosure following the attack and members of the public were not at any risk during the incident.
Visitors were asked to leave the wildlife park before it closed early. It is thought possible that some of them could have seen the attack by a Sumatran tiger.
The park’s website says it keeps both Siberian and Sumatran tigers.
The animals can be up to three metres long and weigh around 300 kg.
David Gill, the owner and founder of South Lakes Wild Animal Park, said McClay was very experienced in looking after big cats and that he had no explanation as to why she had 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.”
McClay had worked at the wildlife park for a number of years and was “very proficient” in her work with big cats.
Mr. Gill told BBC Radio 5 Live 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 4 p.m. on Friday, when staff were working as normal and the park was open to the public.
The tiger has been at the park for 10 years since it was a cub.
Mr. Gill said, “The tiger 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.”