LONDON — A zoo keeper who died after being mauled by a tiger may have been “dragged” into a pen, police said.
Sarah McClay, 24, was attacked by a Sumatran tiger in an enclosure at South Lakes Wild Animal Park, near Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria, on Friday.
Cumbria Police said a tiger escaped from its pen and attacked McClay who was in a staff area.
Detectives said either “human or mechanical” error could have led to the tiger’s escape.
McClay was taken to Preston Royal Hospital where she died of head and neck injuries.
Park owner David Gill said after the attack there was “no reason” for McClay to be in the enclosure with the tigers.
Detective Chief Inspector Bob Qazi, of Cumbria Police, said: “It is vitally important that we discover what exactly happened in the big cat enclosure building that led to Sarah coming into contact with the tiger.
“I want to emphasise there is no suggestion of any foul play or any issue of suicide or self-harm from the enquiries we have made and evidence we have.
“What has become apparent from our enquiries is that Sarah was going about her routine duties and was in the staff section of the enclosure building, which animals are not allowed access to, when a tiger has entered it from an adjacent pen and confronted her.
“The tiger has then attacked Sarah, taking her from the building into the open-air external enclosure area where Sarah was left and later attended by staff and paramedics.
“We are still trying to establish exactly how and why the tiger has been able to get from the pen into the staff area and at the moment believe this to be because of a human or system error, or mechanical failing, or combination of both.”
Police said compartments in the tiger enclosure were connected by lockable doors but systems in place to ensure staff and animals were kept apart had “failed”. (BBC)