Horrific new details have emerged of how a fearless safari guide risked his own life by repeatedly punching a raging lioness in the face as the animal fatally mauled tragic New Yorker Katherine Chappel.
Eyewitness Ben Govender described the heroic battle in an interview Saturday — the same day relatives and friends held a memorial service in Rye for the beautiful and “fearless’’ 29-year-old adventurer.
The lion attack took place Monday, after Chappell rolled down the window of her SUV to snap a better shot, of the animal, who was lying on the ground.
Without warning, the lion stood up on its rear paws, balancing on the vehicle. Then it suddenly lunged forward and grabbed Chappell through the window.
“We saw the [guide] diving into the passenger seat and punching at the lioness,” recalled Govender, 38, an engineer and photographer.
The guide, Pierre Potgieter, 66, suffered a heart attack and is hospitalized after what he called “the worst experience’’ of his life.
Govender continued, “after the first bite, the lioness retreated from the car with blood dripping from her mouth and paw.’’
But the horror was far from over.
The animal staged a second, even more devastating, attack.
“Her face was torn apart. The right side of her chest was gone,” Govender said of Chappell. “Nothing could have been done to save that woman.’’
The lioness, Govander said, “had half . . . her shoulder in its mouth.’’
Chappell, a Hofstra grad who worked as a visual-effects artist on HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and big-budget flicks including “Captain America” and “Godzilla,” was in South Africa volunteering at a different wildlife preserve, relatives said Saturday during the service at the Graham Funeral Home.