Lion Attack: American Woman Mauled to Death in South Africa

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JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - Katherine Chappell went to South Africa on a volunteer mission to protect wildlife.

But as the 29-year-old American was taking photos of a pride of lions at a safari park on Monday, one of them leaped up against the vehicle she was in and fatally attacked her, according to accounts of the incident.

Her family is heartbroken.

"Katie was a brilliant, kind, adventurous and high-spirited woman," a family member said in a Facebook post. "Her energy and passion could not be contained by mere continents or oceans."

A memorial service will be held Saturday in her hometown of Rye, New York.

"She was very much loved and shared her love for life with those she met," her family said.

The incident is under investigation. Witnesses say Chappell "rolled down the passenger window in order to take photographs." But she apparently didn't notice that one of the lions was approaching the vehicle from the side.

The lion stopped about a meter from the vehicle as Chappell continued taking pictures, a Lion Park statement said. The animal then lunged at the car, biting the woman through the open window.

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