BBC News

Family's car catches fire in Longleat lion enclosure

media captionDriver Helen Clements talks about the moment her car caught fire: "Luckily we couldn't see the lions"

A family was left with nowhere to run when their car caught fire - in the lion enclosure at Longleat Safari Park.

Rangers rescued driver Helen Clements and her two children from their vehicle before it burst into flames.

Lions are thought to have been about 100 yards away but no one was hurt.

Mrs Clements, from Kingswood, Gloucestershire, told the BBC: "It could have been in the flamingos or the camels but no, it had to be in the lion enclosure."

She had been on her first visit to the safari park with son George, nine, and 12-year-old daughter Charlie when the drama unfolded on a busy Good Friday afternoon.

Kevin Ashley, from the Wiltshire safari park, said the lions were cleared from the enclosure and the park was closed.

He added that the fire was put out quickly and no animals had been harmed.

image copyrightHelen Clements
image captionHelen Clements, pictured with daughter Charlie and son George, praised the rangers for their speedy reaction

Mrs Clements said she thought her car had overheated when it stopped inside the enclosure.

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

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

She sounded her horn and both she and George opened their doors, before rangers came running towards them.

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

Her son ran out but she called him back and within moments, a ranger had pulled up in a vehicle and got them out of the car.

They could not see the lions at the time as other cars were in front of them.

"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."

Black smoke

Visitor George Lear said: "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."

He added that the air had been filled with black smoke after the car was engulfed by flames.

Also in the enclosure was Gabrielle Owen, from Newport, who said it could have been a "horrific story".

She praised the rangers, describing them as "incredibly fast at dealing with the incident".

image copyrightAnna Lear
image captionThe fire was put out after the lions were cleared from the enclosure
image copyrightGeorge Lear
image captionEyewitness George Lear said the lions "didn’t take their eyes off the fire and smoke"
image copyrightOther
image captionRangers had to move the lions out of the enclosure while the rescue took place

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