The Fresno County Coroner said that death came to volunteer intern Dianna Hanson swiftly, likely with the one swipe of a big paw from the 450-pound lion that attacked her. He said the death would have been a "merciful way to go."
Fresno County Coroner Dr. David Hadden said Thursday (March 7), according to the Fresno Bee, that his autopsy of the 24-year-old Hanson indicated that she had died from an apparent broken neck. Therefore, she would not have suffered pain from the subsequent bites and clawings, nor the tossing around the lion did to her body.
Authorities were still investigating the nature of the attack on the young intern. She had only been working at the Cat Haven animal sanctuary since January. She was hoping the six-month internship would lead to a job with a California zoo. Hanson was from Seattle.
Her father said she loved her work. In a tearful statement, the victim's father, Paul Hanson, said Thursday that his daughter had been "absolutely fearless" and "at ease with those big cats." According to CBS News/Associated Press, Hanson admitted it was his daughter's "dream job" but that he had always "feared getting a call" like the one he got telling him his daughter had been attacked.
CNN reported that Dale Anderson, the sanctuary's CEO, said the facility has been "incident-free" since it opened in 1998.
The attack occurred on Wednesday. Sheriff's deputies were called to the scene at Cat Haven, where they found an employee of Cat Haven attempting to lure the massive lion away from the body of a female, who was lying motionless inside the lion's enclosure. When the attempt failed, the animal was shot and killed. However, unbeknownst to the Sheriff's deputies, it was already too late. Dianna Hanson was pronounced dead at the scene.
Anderson said that an internal investigation of Cat Haven would be conducted to ensure all safety procedures were followed.
Citing figures supplied by nonprofit cat sanctuary Big Cat Rescue of Tampa, Fla., CNN noted that 20 people had died from big cat attacks in the US from 1990 to 2011. Due to stringent safety protocols at most wildlife refuges and sanctuaries, the number of injuries is kept down. Still, in that same 21-year period, 246 people were mauled.
And even though it is rare for big cats, like tigers and lions, to kill in the US, it is fairly common in Africa. In fact, in just the past week in Zimbabwe, three people were killed by lions around the Lake Kariba area. In the latest attack, a woman was killed when she and a tryst partner were attacked while having sex in the bush. The man, albeit naked, escaped with his life. Unfortunately, by the time he arrived back at the scene of the attack with help, his companion had been killed, mauled to death.