The first victim, Mark Jeffrey Reynolds, 35, a competition cyclist who worked for a sports marketing company, was found dead and partially buried under sand along a quiet stretch of rocky, hilly trail in the Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park in Foothill Ranch.Death by organ removal sounds very unpleasant.
The second rider, Anne Hjelle, 30, a former Marine who works at a health club, survived after being rescued by four or five other cyclists who pummeled the lion with rocks and even a bicycle, forcing it to flee. She was airlifted to Mission Hospital in Orange County and was listed Friday in serious condition with lacerations on her head, neck, arms and back.
Officials described it as an exceptionally unusual attack by a type of animal that, while savage when provoked, rarely comes near humans and even more infrequently attacks humans for food. But the people who rescued Hjelle and witnessed the encounter said the lion had locked its powerful jaws around her head and was dragging her steadily into the brush before their shouts and battering forced it to release her.
"This was a predatory attack," said Jim Amormino, the spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department. "It's just so out of the ordinary."
The lion suspected of being responsible for both attacks, a 2-year-old, 110-pound male -- which is not large for an adult -- was shot around 8 p.m. Thursday night by two sheriff's deputies, just 40 yards from where the first cyclist's body had been discovered. The lion had been spotted by deputies in helicopters using infrared scopes, then pursued by officers on the ground.
"He was definitely stalking the deputies when he was shot," said Amormino. "There's no doubt that lion was threatening."
Amormino said that an autopsy had been completed on the first victim, Reynolds, with gruesome conclusions.
"The autopsy concluded that he died from the removal of organs in the chest and abdomen," said Amormino. "It seems he was partially eaten."
The lion's strength also stunned some officials, since it attacked two strong and fit adults and apparently had no problem overpowering them. The lion would have easily killed Hjelle, an Orange County resident, had it not been for several other riders who pulled her away and smashed the lion with rocks.
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