A tiger at a wildlife park tore through the door of an enclosure and pounced on a keeper, a zoo visitor has told an inquest.
Gareth Bell had been visiting South Lakes Safari Zoo in Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria, in May last year when he saw the tiger attack Sarah McClay in the keepers’ corridor.
Ms McClay died from multiple injuries including deep puncture wounds to the neck, the back of her body, both arms and her left foot.
The jury in Kendal, Cumbria, had previously heard that systems were in place to ensure that animals and keepers remained apart at all times through indoor and outdoor compartments connected by lockable doors. Within the tiger enclosure was a light den and a dark den for the tiger, which keepers were required to enter in the course of routine duties such as cleaning.
Mr Bell, 34, said he saw a tiger move through an internal sliding gate which linked the light den to the dark den. Moving to another window, he saw a keeper with her back to him, putting down a bucket next to the light-den door.
In “a split second” the tiger moved through the door of the dark den, which led on to the corridor. “It tore through... She turned around and started. She was not expecting it to be there. It turned and pounced.”
A bolt on the top of the dark-den door was found to be defective in the hours following her death.
The inquest continues.