SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

March 9, 2013

Family: Death of woman in lion cage was accident

(Continued)

Hadden said the lion then ran at Hanson.

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.

Family members say Hanson was actually using a walkie-talkie, which they understood to be the policy at the animal park.

“She wasn’t distracted, she wasn’t like that,” Windle-Hanson said. “It’s a safety protocol to have walkie-talkies there, which is important in case a situation like this occurs.”

Sheriff’s deputies shot Cous Cous after the animal couldn’t be coaxed away from Hanson’s body.

Hanson had been working for two months as an intern at Cat Haven, a 100-acre private zoo east of Fresno.

Her father, Paul Hanson, described his daughter as a “fearless” lover of big cats and said her goal was to work with the animals at an accredited zoo. She died doing what she loves, he said.

Hanson’s Facebook page is plastered with photos of her petting tigers and other big cats. She told her father she was frustrated that Cat Haven did not allow direct contact with 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.

Dale Anderson, the owner of the zoo, said safety protocols were in place but he would not discuss them because they are a part of the law enforcement investigation.

Anderson said he’s the only person allowed in the enclosure when lions are present.

“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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