Alexandra Black started her job as an intern at a North Carolina private wildlife sanctuary two weeks ago.

She was part of a team doing routine cleaning of an enclosure on Sunday when she was attacked by a lion, local media reported.

One of several lions at the sanctuary, the Conservators Centre, “somehow left a locked space and entered the space the humans were in and quickly killed one person,” the Centre said in an emailed statement.

“It is unclear at this time how the lion left the locked enclosure,” the Centre said, adding that the incident was being investigated.

A sheriff’s deputy shot and killed the lion so that 22-year-old Black’s body could be retrieved, the Centre said.

The sheriff’s office said its deputies tried and failed to tranquilize the lion before resorting to deadly force, local media said.

The Centre, located on 18 hectares in Burlington, about 80 km northwest of Raleigh, said it was home to more than 80 animals, including many large cats.

It said it would be closed to visitors until further notice.

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