A DAY trip nearly turned into a disaster when a car overheated and broke down in a safari park’s cheetah enclosure.
Nadia Stone from Gloucester thought she was going to be left with the choice of being burnt or mauled during the visit to West Midlands Safari Park.
The 31-year-old from St Oswald’s said she had just passed the warning signs, which told visitors to close the sunroof, windows and locked the doors.
She said: “I suddenly thought I could smell burning. ‘Is your car overheating?’ I remember asking the driver.
‘No,’ he said, then ‘although the engine does seem very hot’.
“Seconds later I could see smoke coming out from under the bonnet. I went straight into panic mode, shrieking ‘oh my God, turn the engine off, turn the engine off’. I had no idea what to do.”
She added: “Only a few weeks ago I saw a car pulled over on the motorway in flames and that picture was in my head. I just kept thinking that if the engine set on fire, what could we do? We weren’t supposed to get out of the car.
“The choice could have been between being burned or risk being mauled.”
The former Ribston Hall High School pupil said she and her friends saw a sign which recommended sounding the horn if in trouble.
She said: “This car has the most ineffectual horn, so we were sounding it again and again and could see a ranger parked down the road, but he didn’t move. We had no idea what to do.
“We later found out he had heard us but wasn’t allowed to move from his station. But we didn’t know that. Nobody told us.”
The quick-thinking communications officer and international development masters student rang the safari park asking for help.
Laughing at the situation with hindsight, she said: “By this point the car had stopped smoking so we weren’t panicking and 20 minutes later, the cavalry turned up, topped us up with water and sent us on our way.
“The whole way around the park, the car kept overheating.
“It was really busy and there were lots of queues so we had to drive past the lions, tawny and white, the rhinos, giraffes and elephants with one eye on them and the other on the temperature gauge, and turning the engine off every time it started to rise too high.
“It took forever to get out of the park.”