A NSW ambulance officer has described the “daunting” moment she walked into an enclosure to retrieve a zookeeper who had been mauled by two lions.
The animals had already been controlled and moved into cages just metres away at Shoalhaven Zoo, on the state’s South Coast.
NSW Ambulance duty officer Inspector Faye Stockman said zoo staff accompanied paramedics into the lions’ den.
“This is one of the worst jobs I have ever experienced – I have never come across a job like this in my career,” she told Channel Nine.
“It was absolutely harrowing.”
Inspector Stockman said the zookeeper was lying unconscious on the ground.
“We were treating her for lacerations to her neck and injuries to her head,” she said.
“We loaded her took her to a waiting specialist rescue helicopter and she was transported to St George Hospital.”
Inspector Stockman said her sole focus was on taking care of the 35-year-old patient.
She praised the zoo staff who helped secure the animals.
The South Eastern Sydney Local Health District said the woman had arrived at St George Hospital in a critical but stable condition.
Police said the zookeeper was cleaning the lions’ cage at the time of the attack.
Shoalhaven Zoo owner Nick Schilko said his focus was on supporting his staff and helping police with their investigation.
SafeWork has also launched a probe into the incident.
“SafeWork NSW inspectors are onsite and investigating after an employee of the Shoalhaven Zoo suffered serious injuries after reportedly being attacked by lions,” a spokesperson said.
“SafeWork’s investigation is ongoing.”
The zoo had been closed since March 25 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Officers from South Coast Police District established a crime scene and commenced inquiries into the circumstances surrounding the incident.
Mauling follows croc attack
This is not the first time an employee has been attacked at the zoo.
In 2014 a handler was dragged into a pond by a 3.7 metre saltwater crocodile.
The worker was trying to lure the animal out of its enclosure with a piece of meat when it latched onto his hand in front of about 60 spectators.
The crocodile let him go, however, and he sustained relatively minor injuries.