Updated:DUNLAP, Calif. —
Investigators say a lion that killed a volunteer at a big cat Sanctuary in California may have unlatched the door on its cage and attacked the woman as she was cleaning nearby.
The family of Brier woman Dianna Hanson had said they believed she was in the lion’s cage when she was attacked.
But investigators believe the lion used its paw to lift up and unlatch his cage door and then likely killed Hanson with a swipe of its paw.
Hanson's colleagues at California’s Cat Haven sanctuary tried to explain that the sanctuary was the place where Hanson’ passion inspired everyone around her.
“Everybody loved her. She came in every morning, and if any of us was in a bad mood, she would lighten the load,” said Cat Haven President Wendy Debbas.
It appears the 24-year-old volunteer was doing routine cleaning chores away from a locked lion cage when she was suddenly attacked by a 550-pound male lion named Couscous.
“The coroner has released the autopsy report, which revealed that Dianna died instantly due to a broken neck,” said Dean Anderson with Cat Haven.
The report also said that Hanson was likely dead when the lion appeared to have dragged her body back toward its cage.
Hanson's father and brother, who live near Seattle, spoke with Anderson Cooper on CNN Thursday.
“She was so happy. The last two months there as an intern at Cat Haven were the happiest of her life. Her mother and I agree, we had never seen her happier since she got there,” said the victim’s father, Paul Hanson Sr.
Hanson’s brother said the lion that killed her was one of her favorites.
Hanson is being remembered by the people who gave her an internship at Cat haven six months ago.
“She was doing what she loved, and she was doing it with joy every day that she worked here. And she’s going to be missed. I’m so sorry that this has happened,” said Debbas.
Hanson was apparently talking to a friend on her cellphone when she was attacked. The call was cut off, and the friend figured something terrible happened.