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California wildlife park where lion killed intern reopens

The California wild animal sanctuary where an intern was killed by a lion last week reopened on Sunday, and a letter from the victim's mother was read saying that the family has no ill will toward the park. NBC's Mara Schiavocampo reports.


Cat Haven, the wildlife conservation facility where a 24-year-old intern was killed by a lion last week, reopened to the public Sunday morning.

The park had closed after Dianna Hanson's grisly death on Wednesday but has resumed regular operations just four days after the accident.

"It's important that we attend to (the animals) health and well-being, and we believe returning to a state of normal operations is a part of that process," founder Dale Anderson said in a statement.

"We want to assure the community that we have followed all safety protocols," Anderson told the Associated Press. "We have been incident free since 1998."

Shortly before the park opened at 10 a.m local time, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims delivered a statement about the status of the investigation.

"We believe this was an accident, an error," she said adding that she was waiting for the conclusion of the investigation to reveal more details, according to Fresnobee.com, a local newspaper.

Asked about any changes in safety procedures, a volunteer at the facility told NBC News, "Everything is in order," but refused to comment further.

Hanson was killed almost instantly when the lion, named Cous Cous, pounced on the young intern, fracturing her neck. It is believed that the lion freed itself by pushing an improperly closed cage door, according to Reuters.

Paul Hanson / AP

This undated photo provided by Paul Hanson shows his sister, Dianna Hanson. Dianna Hanson, a 24-year-old intern at the Cat Haven in Dunlap, Calif., was mauled to death by a lion at the exotic animal park on Wednesday, March 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul Hanson)

Sheriff's deputies shot and killed the lion after the cat could not be lured away from the Hanson's body.

Meanwhile, the victim’s family members believe her death was just an accident.

"It sounds like an accident. Maybe the latch had not been completely closed. You know, house cats are smart, they can open doors,” Paul Hanson, Dianna's brother, told the Associated Press on Saturday.