Lion Kills Woman: 'Cat Haven' Intern Dianna Hanson, 24, Killed Instantly By 550 Pound Lion [VIDEO]

By Staff Reporter on March 8, 2013 8:15 AM EST

Dianna Hanson
Dianna Hanson was attacked and killed by a lion while cleaning its enclosure (Photo: YouTube)

A lion fatally mauled 24-year-old intern Dianna Hanson at Cat Haven, a Central California animal park on Thursday. The lion had escaped from its feeding cage and mauled the volunteer while she was cleaning its larger enclosure area.

According to Fresno County Coroner David Hadden, Dianna Hanson was killed instantly when the 550-pound male lion broke her neck with the strong swipe of his paw.

According to autopsy results, bites and scratch marks on Hanson were inflected after she was already killed.

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"The young lady wasn't alive when the lion was tossing the body about," said Hadden, the coroner. "We think the lion hit her with his paw and that's what fractured her neck."

Investigators believe the door to the larger enclosure area was already open at the time of the incident. The 5-year-old male African lion would only have to lift the partially open door to reach Dianna.

"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. "He ran at the young lady."

Dianna Hanson was speaking with co-workers on the cellphone when she was attacked. According to co-workers, Dianna ended her conversation abruptly and failed to call back. Checking up on her, the co-workers immediately contacted the authorities.

Upon the arrival of authorities, Cous Cous could not be coaxed away from Hanson's body. Eventually, Sheriff's deputies shot Cous Cous.

Dianna Hanson had only worked at Cat Haven for two months. Father Paul Hanson described Dianna as a "fearless" lover of big cats with ambitions to work with the animals at an accredited zoo. Paul said his daughter died doing what she loved.

Two months into her internship, Dianna had already shared many pictures of herself petting tigers and big cats while voicing frustrations of policy prohibiting her from having direct contact with the animals.

"She was disappointed because she said they wouldn't let her into the cages with the lion and tiger there," said Paul Hanson, a Seattle-area attorney.

Now, investigators are looking into the safety protocols of the zoo. Cat Haven operator Dale Anderson, the only person allowed into an enclosure when lions are present, assured the park functioned with strict protocols.

"We want to assure the community that we have followed all safety protocols," Anderson said. "We have been incident-free since 1998 when we opened."

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