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Did zookeeper killed by tiger die after running to help colleague?

Mirror logo Mirror 30/05/2017 Rachel McDermott
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A zookeeper who was fatally mauled by a tiger in a "freak accident" at a Cambridgeshire zoo may have died helping a colleague, say eyewitnesses.

Visitor Pete Davies said he saw a female keeper run into the tigers' enclosure moments before Rosa King, 34, was killed at Hamerton Zoo Park.

He said the woman ran past him and his family after hearing a colleague shouting, and "all hell broke loose" as he heard a "blood-curdling scream" from inside the enclosure.

A different keeper then ran out of the enclosure and shouted at Bank Holiday visitors to "run", he added.

Witnesses told how colleagues desperately tried to save Rosa and tossed raw meat into the enclosure to distract the tigers.

They described seeing distraught staff with their heads in their hands as the park in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, was evacuated.

Pete, 55, said a female zookeeper ran past him moments before the attack as he visited with his partner Victoria, his son, daughter-in-law and grandson.

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He said: "She had run into the enclosure after hearing one of her colleagues shouting and moments later all hell let loose.

"She let out a blood-curdling scream and then another keeper ran out and shouted 'run'.

"It was a case of total panic. There were keepers rushing about throwing about buckets of meat to try and get the tigers under control."

He added: "It went on for too long."

Pete and his family were ushered away to a building and kept there for around 10 minutes.

He said: "You could see the keepers with their heads in their hands."

Cambridgeshire Police said the tiger had not been killed and was unharmed.

Devastated family and friends have paid tribute to Rosa, who was a carnivore keeper at the zoo.

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Her mother, Andrea, said: "She wouldn't have done anything else, it's what she has always done, it's what she has always loved."

Among the other tributes, Rosa was described as the "shining light" of the zoo where she had worked for around 14 years.

Wildlife photographer Garry Chisholm described Rosa as a "lovely lady" who was "absolutely passionate" about the captive animals in her care.

Garry, 59, said he knew Rosa through visiting the attraction and said the zoo revolved around the keeper.

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He said: "Rosa wasn't just a keeper at Hamerton Zoo - she was Hamerton Zoo.

"She was the absolute central point of it, the focal point of it. She was the shining light of it.

"It revolved around her."

Garry added: "Her passion for the animals in her care was exceptional though her favourites were undoubtedly the cheetahs, which she would refer to as her pride and joy.

"I feel privileged to have known Rosa and been able to call her a friend.

"She will be greatly missed, not just by me, but by everyone who came to know her.

"The only consolation I can take from today's tragic events is that Rosa is now reunited with her beloved Ares the cheetah, and Blizzard and Ladybelle, her beloved tigers."

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Emergency services were called to the park at around 11:15 a.m. on Monday following reports of a "serious incident".

A Magpas air ambulance was on the scene 20 minutes later and visitors were evacuated from the attraction just before midday.

An East of England Ambulance Service paramedic crew and two rapid response vehicles also attended.

The zoo said it appeared to have been a "freak accident", as it remained closed amid an investigation.

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In a statement, the zoo said: "At no point during the incident did any animals escape their enclosures and at no point was public safety affected in any way.

"All our thoughts and sympathies are with our colleagues, friends and families at this dreadful time."

The zoo opened in June 1990 and covers 25 acres.

It includes enclosures for Malaysian tigers, Bengal tigers, cheetahs, wolves, corsac foxes, kangaroos as well as a variety of birds, reptiles and domestic animals.

In October 2008 a cheetah which escaped from the park was found by a nine-year-old boy in the back garden of his family home.

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