It is the ultimate irony in the tragic death of Katherine “Katie” Chappell, the New York woman killed in South Africa’s Lion Park, that she was so dedicated to keeping alive one of the beasts that ended her life.
Chappell, 29, who grew up in Rye, N.Y. in Westchester County, was a true blue conservationist and a talented visual effects editor who worked on HBO’s “Game of Thrones” via a company called Scanline.
“We are broken-hearted to share this news with our friends and family: (Monday) morning, while on a volunteer mission to protect wildlife in South Africa, Kate Chappell was involved in a tragic and fatal accident,” her sister, Jennifer, posted on Facebook.
“Katie was a brilliant, kind, adventurous and high-spirited woman. Her energy and passion could not be contained by mere continents or oceans. She was very much loved and shared her love for life with those she met.”
Chappell in March turned to the crowdfunding site, GoFundMe.com to raise $1,300 for Wildlife ACT.
“I will be assisting rangers in tracking and monitoring animals, setting up camera traps, participating in poaching prevention techniques, providing support and assistance to veterinarians, and be involved in game capture and relocation,’’ she wrote at the time.
Her brutal end came Monday in Johannesburg in Lion Park, the closest habitat to the city to let visitors get up close to the wild beasts.
The park, which has nearly 200,00 visitors yearly, is very specific about keeping windows rolled up and said the attacking lioness won’t be put down.
"The allegation is that while she was driving, the window was open and the lion attacked," Lt. Col. Lungelo Dlamini, a spokesman for the police in Gauteng province, told USA Today.
Chappell was taking photos through the open window when the lion lunged and dragged her from the vehicle, fatally mauling her. A second victim, a man in the car who tried to save her, was also injured.
"If the rules are followed, the system works great," park spokesman Scott Simpson told USA Today. "We will have an investigation here and we will look at our current measures and see if we need to change them."
The Journal News in Westchester reports that a wake for the victim will be Friday, 7 to 9 p.m., and then 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Graham Funeral Home in Rye.
A memorial service will be held at noon Saturday.
Chappell was a 2008 graduate of Long Island’s Hofstra University.
Her sister’s full statement:
“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. She was very much loved and shared her love for life with those she met.
“We cannot thank everyone enough for the kind words and support. It means the world to us during this difficult time. “
- Jennifer Chappell