Cumbria

Sarah McClay tiger death inquest: Family 'wants questions answered'

Sarah McClay Image copyright Stephen McClay
Image caption Miss McClay's family await answers from a health and safety investigation, following the inquest verdict

The family of a zookeeper killed by a tiger in Cumbria, say there are still unanswered questions after the inquest into her death.

Sarah McClay, 24, was mauled at the South Lakes Wild Animal Park near Dalton-in-Furness in May last year.

A jury found the tiger got through an open door to a corridor she was working in. A narrative verdict was recorded.

The inquest heard keepers and animals were supposed to be kept apart by lockable self-closing doors.

Faulty bolt

The male Sumatran tiger, Padang, walked through two internal sliding gates in its enclosure, before going through the door to where Miss McClay was standing.

It pounced on her and dragged her by the back of the neck into a den and then to an outside enclosure.

A post-mortem examination showed Miss McClay, from Barrow-in-Furness, suffered deep puncture wounds to her neck and body.

She was airlifted to Royal Preston Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

The inquest heard earlier in the week one of the bolts in the door was found to be faulty following the attack, but it could not be determined when the damage was done.

Image caption Padang walked in through an open enclosure door from outside, the jury found

The jury found one or more of the bolts on the door extended, preventing it from closing into the frame.

South Cumbria coroner Ian Smith told jurors their task was not to apportion blame for Miss McClay's death, but to determine the facts.

A criminal health and safety at work investigation is being held by Barrow Borough Council, which licenses the park, now known as South Lakes Safari Zoo.

Miss McClay's boyfriend, David Shaw, 25, read a joint statement with her mother Fiona McClay, 50, following the verdict.

'Greatly missed'

He said: "The council in Barrow is still conducting their investigation and it would be wrong of us to say anything before they have concluded that investigation.

"There are always questions that we would like answered.

"Sarah's death has been difficult for us all and we hope that today's conclusion will help us move forward in some way."

The zoo's owner David Gill had told jurors he fired a rifle shot at Padang, causing it to run back into the tiger house, meaning emergency services could attend.

In a statement issued today, Mr Gill said: "Sarah McClay was a dedicated and valued member of the animal caring staff at the park.

"Her tragic and untimely death has affected all of us at the park and she is greatly missed."

Image caption The jury heard the tiger house had a system of lockable, self-closing doors

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