SHERWOOD, Ore. -- The owner of the wild cat sanctuary where a worker was killed in a cougar attack last weekend said the company has hired an investigator to review all of its safety procedures.
Renee Radziwon-Chapman, 36, was attacked and died Saturday night inside an enclosure at WildCat Haven, where she was the head keeper, according to Sgt. Robert Wurpes with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office.
Her body was found outside a lockout cage, which was used to isolate the big cats when workers needed to enter the larger enclosure.
Background: Ore. woman killed in cougar attack
WildCat Haven released a statement Tuesday that said the lockout gate was "operating properly" and "would have prevented the three cats housed in the main enclosure from returning to the enclosure until released had they all been secured in the lockout."
The statement went on to explain that only one of the three wild cats was secured inside the lockout when the attack occurred. The two others were inside the main enclosure, along with Radziwon-Chapman's body.
The sanctuary has hired a specialist in exotic captive animal programs to review the sanctuary’s safety protocols and audit the facility.
“It is our deepest wish to honor Renee’s memory and respect her family,” said Michael Tuller, WildCat Haven President and Co-Founder. “That is why formal investigations, by our organization and others, are essential.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also launched an investigation into Radziwon-Chapman's death. They will try to determine exactly what happened and how the accident could have been prevented.
"We'll look at a number of factors," explained Melanie Mesaros with Oregon OSHA. "We will talk to employees and potential witnesses, we'll look at any evidence on the scene."
The state OSHA investigation could take up to six months. The sheriff's office is also conducting a separate investigation.
Police report points to hose as possible trigger
A hose in a cage for wild cats may have set off the violent attack that killed the experienced keeper, according to a police report obtained by KGW.
The report said that WildCat Haven owner Michael Tuller saw Radziwon-Chapman lying lifeless on the ground and pulled her into a separate cage away from the big cats. He called 911 and said he thought she was dead.
Police arrived and noted the woman's severe injuries. They also noticed that one of the cougars had blood on its face.
The officer said Tuller was "extremely upset" and said it appeared that Radziwon-Chapman had brought a hose into the cougars' cage and "the people who work here know not to bring hoses inside the cages." Tuller said the hose could have brought out the cougars' unusual behavior.
It appeared that Radziwon-Chapman was about ten feet away from a cage door when she was killed, the report said.
Tuller told the investigating officer, "This should have never happened... they [the caretakers] always go into the cages in pairs."
Sanctuary officials said Sunday in a prepared statement that while protocol calls for more than one worker inside an enclosure containing an animal, Radziwon-Chapman had apparently gone in alone, which violated safety rules.
"I resent the fact the sanctuary said it was her fault. My daughter would not do that," The victim's mother, Carol Radziwon, told KGW Monday. "They broke the rules, not my daughter."
Radziwon-Chapman had worked with tigers, cougars, bobcats and lynx at the sanctuary for the past eight years. She had a biology degree and was also a certified vet tech.
Radziwon-Chapman leaves behind a husband and a 6-month-old baby.
"As WildCat Haven Sanctuary continues to grieve for its beloved head keeper, Renee Radziwon- Chapman, it is committed to a thorough investigation of the tragic accident," Tuesday's statement said.
KGW reporter Kyle Iboshi contributed to this report.