A KINGSWOOD family was forced to flee their car after it caught fire – in the middle of a lion enclosure.
Helen Clements was visiting Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire on Good Friday with her two children, Charlie, 12, and George, nine, when her people carrier overheated and burst into flames.
Like many visitors,the 43-year-old had been more concerned about having problems in the monkey area.
“They have that reputation of ripping cars to shreds,” she said. “So I was more worried about monkeys than anything else.”
After a lot of queuing at the busy park, the family drove into the lions' den which was when Ms Clements spotted steam emerging from her bonnet.
“I thought, ‘That’s not steam, that’s smoke,’ – and then I saw the flames," she said. “There was sheer panic on the children’s faces.”
Ms Clements sounded the car's horn to alert rangers who managed to clear the animals from the enclosure and rescue the family in a Jeep, where panic soon turned to relief.
“I looked at the children and laughed,” she said. “We were safe and it’s only a car. But it’s unbelievable.
"If it had been with the elephants or flamingos, it would have been fine. Of all the places for it to happen, of course it was with the lions.”
The family’s dramatic escape hit the headlines across the globe, which Ms Clements said was surreal.
“I can’t get my head around it,” she said. “I kept saying that it was no big deal and now it’s all over the world.
“I’m just pleased we didn’t see the lions. Had we been closer, it would have been much worse.”
The family have since watched a video on YouTube showing the big cats at the time the fire took hold.
“The lions are looking at something and are really interested,” Ms Clements explained. “One of them got up, and you think, 'My Goodness, they could have come right over to us.'”
The children have returned to Katharine Lady Berkeley’s School and Kingswood Primary School after Easter with stories to tell.
Their mum added: “I think they will certainly beat everyone else at show and tell.”
A spokesman for Longleat said the car caught fire after it overheated at around 1pm in the first of two lion enclosures, which housed 12 of the animals.