Mother tells of family's rescue from Longleat lion area: 'Of all the places - why the lion enclosure?'

Helen Clements and her two children were rescued by rangers after their car caught fire on Good Friday

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The Independent Online

A mother who had to flee her car with her two children in the middle of the lion enclosure at Longleat Safari Park has spoken of the family’s dramatic ordeal.

Helen Clements and her son George, 9, and daughter Charlie, 12, were about 100 yards from the lions when their vehicle overheated and began to smoke on Good Friday afternoon.

“It could have been in the flamingos or the camels but no, it had to be in the lion enclosure,” Mrs Clements told the BBC .

The trio were rescued by rangers just moments before the car burst into flames at the wildlife attraction in Wiltshire.

Neither the family nor any animals were injured in the incident but Mrs Clements said it was “quite frightening”.


The mother, of Kingswood, Gloucestershire, told the BBC that she had at first mistaken the rising smoke for steam.

"Then basically, we thought: 'That's not steam, that's actually smoke'," she said.

"It was getting thicker and thicker and obviously coming into us, and then we saw flames."

She used the vehicle’s horn to alert rangers and both she and George opened their doors. But they were told to remain in the vehicle.


"Unfortunately they [the rangers] were shouting to us: 'Get back in the car, do not get out of the car'," she said.

"It was a situation of - what do you do? Do you get out of the car because you're on fire? And they're telling you to get back in the car, so that was the dilemma."

However, within minutes the rangers pulled up alongside the smoking car in another vehicle and the family were able to climb in and be driven to safety.

"I can laugh about it now as it's only a car and we're all safe," said Mrs Clements.

"You laugh at the funny side of it now. But of all the places - why the lion enclosure?"

She added that she and her children had been unable to see the lions at the time of the incident due to other cars being in front of them.

A spokesman from the safari park said the lions were cleared from the enclosure and the park was closed.

Eyewitness and fellow visitor George Lear told the BBC: "The lions just kept their distance and didn't take their eyes off the fire and smoke.

"The rangers were pushing them back but they were reluctant on moving away as they looked interested."

Mrs Clements said the rangers had been “fantastic”.