It started as a typical family outing on Good Friday to Longleat Safari Park. But the day went from fun-filled to terrifying when the family car burst into flames, just as the family began making their way through the lion enclosure. Helen Clements and her two children were forced to evacuate, and wait for help - while surrounded by lions.
Driving through any wild animal enclosure presents a certain degree of risk - ranging from the animals sinking their teeth in to your car’s tyres to monkeys ripping off aerials, windscreen wipers and trim. We've heard of rhinos ramming vehicles, and big cats wandering closer to have a look in. Provided doors and windows are secured, there’s not usually an issue.
However, this was not the case for Helen, Charlie, and George one Easter. The LV= policy holder (who is insured through LV=’s sister company, ABC) initially thought the car had simply overheated, but it soon became clear the smoke was coming from under the bonnet.
'It was getting thicker and thicker and obviously coming into us, and then we saw the flames,' she told BBC News.
Thankfully, the lions kept their distance - they were around 100 yards away - as the drama unfolded. Once the rangers were alerted to the fire, the enclosure was evacuated and the lions cleared away. Luckily, the car fire was soon contained and none of the passengers or lions were harmed.
Longleat was the setting of the BBC Animal Park TV series and boasts being the first ‘stately home with wild animals park’ of its kind in the world. Rangers responded to the disaster quickly and the family praised them for their swift actions.
Helen and her family are now able to look back on the matter and laugh. Our friendly claims team have also given them a little bonus to pay for another (hopefully more sedate?) family day out. We’re guessing it’s more likely to be a family theme park than swimming with sharks!