Woman killed in Fresno County lion attack died of broken neck

Dianna Hanson, 24, was intern at Cat Haven

DUNLAP, Calif. - Central California officials say the 24-year-old victim of a fatal lion attack died quickly of a broken neck.

Fresno County Coroner David Hadden says Dianna Hanson was already dead when the 550-pound lion was tossing her body about its enclosure shortly after the Wednesday afternoon attack.

Hadden said Thursday that bite and claw marks found on Hanson's body were sustained after she died. Haddon said investigators believe the lion broke Hanson's neck with a paw swipe.

According to authorities, Hanson was talking with a co-worker on the phone moments before the attack.

Hadden said the co-worker became concerned when the conversation ended abruptly and Hanson failed to call back.

Hanson was a volunteer intern at the Cat Haven exotic animal facility in Dunlap, east of Fresno.

Hadden said Hanson was cleaning an enclosure when investigators believe the lion may have used its paw to lift a partially opened door of a smaller cage, but the investigation continues.  

Hanson had told her father she wasn't allowed in the enclosure when lions were present and Cat Haven owner Dale Anderson said he was the only employee allowed in the enclosure with lions present.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Cal-OSHA have joined other state and federal agencies in the investigation.

State investigators who protect workplace safety said Thursday they are trying to determine whether the facility has the required written procedures that employees follow to stay safe.

The USDA enforces the federal Animal Welfare Act and hopes to learn whether the 4-year-old lion that killed Hanson showed any behavior prior to the attack that might have indicated potential danger.

Fresno County sheriff's investigators and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife want to know why Hanson was in the enclosure with the animal.

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