CASWELL COUNTY, N.C. – The family of a worker killed on Sunday by a lion at the Conservators Center in Caswell County released a statement to FOX59, FOX8's sister station in Indianapolis.
“Alex loved animals. Our beautiful, intelligent, passionate Alex had worked, unpaid, at several animal-related ventures, most recently at Wolf Park in Battleground, Indiana. This was her fourth internship, because she really wanted to make a career of working with animals.
She was looking forward to this first out-of-state internship at the Conservators Center in North Carolina 10 days ago.
She was a beautiful young woman who had just started her career, there was a terrible accident, and we are mourning. But she died following her passion.
We ask that you consider donating to Wolf Park in Battleground, Indiana, to honor Alex.”
Alexandra Black, 22, died in Sunday's attack. She was from New Palestine, Indiana, and recently graduated from Indiana University. The school released the following statement:
“We are deeply saddened by the death of May 2018 graduate Alexandra Black, an alumna of Indiana University using her degree in animal behavior and biology to follow her passion for serving and caring for animals. Our thoughts are with her family, friends, and everyone who knew her during this difficult time.”
Black had been working at the Conservators Center for about two weeks, according to the Caswell County Sheriff’s Office.
The center said it happened while a husbandry team led by a professionally trained animal keeper was carrying out a routine enclosure cleaning.
One of the lions somehow left a locked space and went to where the humans were and killed the victim, according to the center.
Officials said the lion was shot and killed to allow Caswell County personnel to get the worker. Several attempts to tranquilize the lion failed, according to deputies
“It’s like the animal wanted to circle around the victim," said Lt. Darrell McLean. "We tried our best using non-lethal means to keep that animal from the victim, but we got to a point where we had to take action.”
The lion that killed Black was identified as "Matthai," one of the male lions at the center, according to Caswell County Sheriff Tony Durden.
It’s unclear how the lion got out. The investigation is ongoing.
Visitors touring the center Sunday say they heard calls for help over workers' radios. They were evacuated through the back of the park, and some said they didn't realize the severity of the situation until later.
The Conservators Center, at 676 East Hughes Mill Road, will be closed until further notice.
“This is the worst day of my life. We’ve lost a person. We’ve lost an animal. We have lost the faith in ourselves a little today,” said Executive Director of the Conservators Center Mindy Stinner to ABC 11.
The center is an educational non-profit dedicated to providing a specialized home for select species and houses more than 80 animals, according to its website. Many of the lions at the facility were rescued from poor living conditions in Ohio in 2004.