Sarah McClay's family say thank you for messages of support following her tragic death

Date Published: 24/05/2013 17:00

Update issued Sunday 26th May at 17:07

The family of Sarah McClay who tragically died following an attack by a Sumatran tiger whilst doing her routine duties at work have paid thanks for everyone’s support and kind words.

Sarah’s family said “We’d like to thank you all for your kind words. We are still coming to terms with what has happened.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank the valiant efforts of Cumbria Ambulance Service, the North West Air Ambulance and the Royal Preston Hospital.

“Investigations are ongoing and it may be sometime before a full picture emerges of what happened and how this tragic accident came to pass.

“In memory of Sarah we are supporting her greatest passion; Red Squirrel conservation. With this in mind, should you wish to contribute to Sarah’s Memorial, a donations page has been set up which ensures your money will reach conservation efforts that Sarah was involved in.

“We would like to thank the press for respecting our privacy at this difficult time.

“Once again, we’d like to thank each and every one of you who has supported us with kind messages and offers of assistance which are much appreciated.”


Police are continuing the investigation into the circumstances and events surrounding the death of Sarah McClay at South Lakes Wild Animal Park on Friday 24th May 2013.


Detective Chief Inspector Bob Qazi said, “At this time this investigation is being done on behalf of HM Coroner. It is vitally important that we discover what exactly happened in the big cat enclosure building that led to Sarah coming into contact with the tiger. I want to emphasise there is no suggestion of any foul play or any issue of suicide or self-harm from the enquiries we have made and evidence we have.


“What has become apparent from our enquiries with witnesses is that Sarah was going about her routine duties and was in the staff section of the enclosure building, which animals are not allowed access to, when a tiger has entered it from an adjacent pen and confronted her. The tiger has then attacked Sarah, taking her from the building into the open-air external enclosure area where Sarah was left and later attended by staff and paramedics.


“We are still trying to establish exactly how and why the tiger has been able to get from the pen into the staff area and at the moment believe this to be because of a human or system error, or mechanical failing, or combination of both.


“The building was secured at the time and we do not believe there was any risk to the general public from animals escaping into public areas of the park.


“We are continuing to liaise closely with Sarah’s family and our thoughts are with them, and her friends, at this very difficult time. We are also conscious the events have had a deep impact upon Sarah’s work colleagues and people at the Animal Park and we would express our sympathies to them too.”


Update issued 25th May at 14:45

Police are continuing to investigate the tragic events at South Lakes Wild Animal Park, Dalton that led to the death of Sarah McClay aged 24 years, an employee at the park, yesterday 24th May. 


Sarah fell victim to an attack by a Sumatran tiger whilst, police believe, going about her routine duties in the big cat enclosure building.


The enclosure concerned consists of a number of compartments both indoor and outdoor connected by lockable doors. Keepers are required to enter various parts enclosures in the course of their routine duties. However, systems are in place the ensure that animals and keepers remain apart at all times. At some stage this has failed and the animal and Sarah came together with tragic consequences. The police are working to establish whether this was a result of human or technical factors.


At this time police are conducting enquiries on behalf of HM Coroner and are not currently treating this as a criminal investigation.  They have also  liaised with Barrow Borough Council who licence the Park regarding the events.  However,  until the investigation is completed police are keeping an open mind as to the exact causes of this tragedy.


Police continue to keep in contact with the family of Sarah and have a team of detectives working on the case. 


Detective Chief Inspector Bob Qazi said, “Our thoughts at this time are with the family and friends of Sarah and we will continue our investigation to establish the exact details of what happened as soon and as thoroughly as possible.”


Update issued 25th May at 00:05

Cumbria Police can confirm that the 24 year old woman, identified as Sarah McClay from the Barrow area, who was attacked by a Tiger within its enclosure this afternoon, has tragically died.


Sarah, was taken by air ambulance to Royal Preston Hospital this afternoon following the attack this afternoon at the South Lakes Wild Animal Park.


Police and Barrow Borough Council are continuing to investigate the circumstances that led to this terrible incident.


Sarah’s family are very shocked and distressed and request that they have privacy as they try to come to terms with their loss


Original release published at 24th May at 17:09

Cumbria Police can confirm that they were called to a serious incident at South Lakes Wild Animal Park, Dalton in Furness following reports a member of staff was attacked by a Tiger within its enclosure.


Ambulance attended and have taken a 24 year old woman who is seriously injured to Preston  Royal Infirmary.


The Tiger is securely locked in its enclosure and there is no further risk to the public.


Members of the public were not at any risk during the incident. The wildlife park has closed early and all visitors have left the park.


Police and Barrow Borough Council  are currently investigating the circumstances that lead to this incident.

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