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Investigators seek answers in fatal central valley lion attack

  • This Wednesday, March 6, 2013 photo shows a sign posted near the gate near at the entrance of Cat Haven, the exotic animal park in central California where a 26-year old female volunteer intern was killed by a lion, in Dunlap, Calif. (AP Photo/Gosia Wozniacka)

DUNLAP, Calif. — The investigation into a lion attack that killed a 24-year-old woman who loved big cats is focusing on a cage door that the 550-pound animal managed to escape through to reach the volunteer intern, officials say.

Authorities said Thursday they believe the 5-year-old male lion broke the neck of the woman at a Central California animal park after it got out of its feeding cage and attacked as she cleaned its bigger area.

The investigation is continuing into how the powerful beast and Dianna Hanson came tragically to be in the same place at the same time, Fresno County coroner David Hadden said.

"The lion had been fed, the young woman was cleaning the large enclosure, and the lion was in the small cage. The gate of the cage was partially open, which allowed the lion called Cous Cous to lift it up with his paw," Hadden said, based on a briefing from investigators. "He ran at the young lady."

Hanson was talking with a co-worker on a cellphone in the moments before she was killed, the coroner said. The co-worker became concerned when the conversation ended abruptly and Hanson failed to call back. The co-worker then called authorities when she went to check on Hanson.


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