A lioness lept through an open car window in Johannesburg's Lion Park on Monday, killing a Westchester native while she took photographs.
Katherine Chappell, 29, grew up in Rye, New York, and studied film at Hofstra University in Long Island, ABC reports. According to NBC, she had been living in Vancouver for the past few years, and worked as a visual artist for Game of Thrones. Chappell was visiting South Africa on a service trip to protect wildlife.
Chappell's cousin issued the following statement yesterday, via Facebook:
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. Katie was a brilliant, kind, adventurous and high-spirited woman. Her energy and passion could not be contained by mere continents or oceans.
In the wake of the incident, Lion Park, which boasts "Super Close-Up Animal Views Guaranteed," has reiterated that all visitors are required to keep their car windows rolled up while driving among the free-range lions. "They [Chappell and her car-mates] had their windows all the way down, which is strictly against policy," Scott Simpson, assistant operations manager at the park, told NBC. He added that signs and pamphlets reiterate this rule for all visitors.
Caroline Potgieter, the wife of Chappell's tour guide and driver, Pierre Potgieter, issued a statement to the Post, insisting that Chappell rolled down her window of her own accord, right before the attack: “The tourist had a camera and, of her own accord, rolled down the passenger window in order to take photographs. A lion then attacked the tourist through the open window."
Potgieter sustained injuries to his arm while attempting to pull the lion off of his passenger, and has been hospitalized. Instead of euthanizing the lioness, ABC reports, park officials are transferring her to a park without tourists.