TODAY   |  March 07, 2013

Animal park employee mauled to death by lion

Dianna Hanson, 24, who had just started interning at California’s Cat Haven in January, was attacked and killed by one of the park’s lions in the animal’s enclosure on Wednesday. NBC’s Diana Alvear reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> closed as officials investigate what caused a lion to attack and kill a young worker. diana is there with the story. good morning.

>> reporter: thank you. family members confirm the victim as 24-year-old dianna hanson and just started intern ing in january with the cat she loved best. the gate is closed. the fresno animal park is a crime scene after a deadly mauling of a volunteer.

>> at approximately 8:00 p.m ., a female volunteer intern entered the lion enclosure where she was attacked.

>> when my deputies entered on scene, the victim was still in the enclosure.

>> reporter: family members say the victim is 24-year-old dianna hanson and said she always loved big cats and it was a dream come true. attempts to distract the lion away didn't work and deputies shot the lion and by then it was too late.

>> it was deceased.

>> reporter: they identified him as 4-year-old cooscos. and was even on the ellen degenerative show. since 1990 , at least 21 people have been killed by exotic cats. 246 people have been mauled. while the department of fisheries and wildlife says it has a good record but quick to point out the risk these animals pose.

>> they're lion, wild animals . as they investigation how hanson e ended up inside the enclosure, the park staff copes with their staggering loss.

>> our thoughts and prayers go out to our friend and her family.

>> we're expecting to learn much more what led up to the attack today from the sheriff's department.

>> dianna, thank you very much.