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  1. ITV Report

Tiger tragedy was 'keeper error' says zoo owner

Sarah McClay Photo:

The owner of a wild animal park where a woman keeper was mauled to death by a tiger has insisted she died "from her own tragic mistake".

David Gill, the owner and founder of South Lakes Wild Animal Park, said Sarah McClay died because of "keeper error" and a "sad error of judgment".

Ms McClay, 24, was attacked by a Sumatran tiger at the park in Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria, on Friday afternoon after she went into its enclosure.

Writing on the park's Facebook page, Mr Gill said: "We have made a statement that from the investigations that have taken place it is clear that this tragedy was caused by a sad error of judgment and breach of protocols, in essence, keeper error.

"This is not blame, it is not anything but defining the facts as they appear.

"This does not mean Sarah killed herself on purpose it means simply she died from her own tragic mistake."

Cumbria Police said an elaborate enclosure of gates means the animals and their keepers should remain apart at all times - but this system failed with fatal consequences.

Detectives are now trying to establish whether this was due to a technical fault or human error.

Wildlife park remains open Credit: ITV

Ms McClay, from the Barrow area, was going about her routine duties in the big cat enclosure at the park when she was attacked.

She was taken by air ambulance to Royal Preston Hospital but died later from her injuries.

Cumbria Police said the tiger was locked in its enclosure following the attack and that members of the public were not at any risk during the incident.

The enclosure concerned consists of a number of compartments both indoor and outdoor connected by lockable doors, police said.

Keepers are required to enter various parts of the enclosures in the course of their routine duties.

However, systems are in place to ensure that animals and keepers remain apart at all times.

But at some stage this failed and the animal and Ms McClay came together with tragic consequences.

Police are now working to establish whether this was a result of human or technical factors.

Mr Gill praised his staff, adding: "My thoughts are purely with Sarah's family and friends and very much with my staff, who have been ripped apart in the past three weeks by the untimely deaths of two of our young female staff."

Ms McClay's death was the second tragedy for the park this month, after another employee was killed in a road accident.

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