Woman Killed in South Africa Lion Attack Identified as New York Native

A woman who was killed by a lion while driving through a private wildlife park in South Africa has been identified as a Westchester native who worked as a visual effects artist on the HBO show “Game of Thrones."

Katherine Chappell, 29, who grew up in Rye, was killed Monday in Johannesburg, according to her cousin and family spokeswoman, Jennifer Chappell.

Officials said a lioness approached the passenger side of the vehicle as Chappell was taking photos and lunged at her. A man in the car was also injured.

Chappell, who was living in Vancouver, studied at Hofstra University on Long Island, the New York Post reports. She moved to Canada to pursue her film career and was on a volunteer mission to protect wildlife in South Africa. In addition to working on "Game of Thrones," Chappell had credits on "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and "Divergent," according to multiple media reports.

In a Facebook statement published by the Daily Mail, Jennifer Chappell confirmed her cousin's death. 

"We are broken-hearted to share this news with our friends and family: Yesterday morning, while on a volunteer mission to protect wildlife in South Africa, Kate Chappell was involved in a tragic and fatal accident," the statement read. "Katie was a brilliant, kind, adventurous and high-spirited woman. Her energy and passion could not be contained by mere continents or oceans."

Officials say guests aren’t allowed to open car windows while driving through the park.

"They had their windows all the way down, which is strictly against policy," said Scott Simpson, assistant operations manager at the Lion Park. "The lion bit the lady through the window."

The driver then tried to punch the lion and was scratched by the animal.

Park staff quickly chased the lion away from the car and an ambulance arrived promptly, but Chappell succumbed to her injuries.

The Lion Park is a popular destination for tourists who can drive in their own vehicles through large enclosures where lions roam freely. Visitors can also pet lion cubs in smaller pens or have supervised walks through cheetah enclosures.

"Nowhere can you get closer to a pride of lions and other animals and still be completely safe," says the park's website.

The park would review its policies, said Simpson, but he believes existing safety measures are "more than adequate," if visitors follow them. Big signs advise visitors to keep their car windows up and drivers entering the park are also handed a paper with the same warning, he said.

Earlier this year, South African media reported that an Australian tourist was bitten by a lion when he was driving in the park with his windows open. In April, a teenager was attacked by a cheetah when he tried to cut through the park on his bicycle, reported local outlet, News24.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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