- Joined Jun 20, 2001
[h1]SeaWorld Worker Dies In Killer Whale Attack[/h1]
[h2]Portion Of Park Closed[/h2]
POSTED: 2:47 pm EST February 24,2010
UPDATED: 4:10 pm EST February 24,2010
ORLANDO, Fla. -- A SeaWorld female employee died after being attacked by a killer whale Wednesday afternoon.Orange County sheriff's deputies responded to a call that someone had been injured or attacked in the killer whale tank regarding the incident which happened at about 12:30 p.m. The worker could not be revived.
Live Chopper Video | Breaking News E-Mails
According to a news release, deputies with the full cooperation of SeaWorld have secured the scene and Homicide Detectives have been requested to respond and conduct a death investigation follow-up, along with our Forensics Unit.The employee's name is being held until next of kin is notified.
A portion of the park near Shamu Stadium is closed because of the incident and will likely not be reopened Wednesday evening and possibly Thursday, according to guest services. Discounted park admission is being offered.Shamu is an Orca, or killer whale, who performs in the stadium, which seats 5,500.
Wild animals will always be WILD no matter how trained, cute, harmless they look.
[h1][/h1][h1]SeaWorld: Whale Dragged Trainer Into Water[/h1]
[h2]Veteran Orlando Trainer Killed By Whale Involved In 2 Other Deaths[/h2]
POSTED: 2:47 pm EST February 24,2010
UPDATED: 9:33 pm EST February 24,2010
ORLANDO, Fla. -- A SeaWorld official confirmed Wednesday night that the whale that killed a trainer at the Orlando park actually pulled the woman into the water.
Chuck Tompkins, head of animal training at all SeaWorld parks, said 40-year-old veteran trainer Dawn Brancheau was rubbing the orca, or killer whale, named Tilikum after a noontime show Wednesday when the whale grabbed her and pulled her in at about 2 p.m.
The sheriff's office originally said she had been in the whale holding area behind the Shamu Stadium when she slipped, fell into the tank, was pulled under water by the whale and drowned.
Tompkins said Brancheau had more experience with Tilikum than most of the park's other 28 trainers, only about a dozen of whom worked with him.
The SeaWorld official said that because of Tilikum's size and involvement in two previous deaths, trainers were not supposed to get into the water with him.
Naomi Rose, of the Humane Society, said Tilikum has now been involved in the deaths of three people.
"Using these animals in entertainment is not good for animals or people. Sadly, we've seen evidence of that again today," Rose said in a release. "Whales and dolphins are large, intelligent, long-lived, socially complex predators who often hunt cooperatively and are capable of swimming 100 miles in a day. They are unsuited to permanent confinement, often exhibiting neurotic behaviors in these settings. Capture methods are also inhumane, and often not adequately managed or overseen."
A former employee of a Canadian aquarium where Tilikum was involved in another trainer's death said he's surprised it happened again.
Steve Huxter was head of Sealand of the Pacific's animal care and training department near Victoria, British Columbia, when part-time orca trainer Keltie Byrne fell into the whale pool after a 1991 show. She died after being dragged around by three whales, including one named Tilikum.
Huxter said he's surprised to hear Tilikum is blamed for killing a trainer in Orlando. He said Tilikum was a well-behaved, balanced animal.He also said there's no chance in the world that Tilikum will be put down.An unnamed SeaWorld employee said that a private group was touring the area and may have witnessed the incident. That group may have included some children.
Officials said the whale in question was in a smaller, unfamiliar pool because of a renovation.SeaWorld's manager, Dan Brown, read the following statement about the incident during a news conference:"It's with great sadness that I report that one of our most experienced animal trainers drowned in an incident with one of our killer whales this afternoon. We've initiated an investigation to determine to the extent possible what occurred. There are no other details to share at this point, but we will make our findings known in due course. I must emphasize that this is an extraordinarily difficult time for the SeaWorld parks and our team members. Nothing is more important than the safety of employees, guests and the animals entrusted to our care. We have never in the history of our parks experienced an incident like this, and all of our standard operating procedures will come under review as part of this investigation. We extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the trainer and will do everything possible to assist them in this difficult time."A portion of the park near Shamu Stadium is closed because of the incident and will likely not be reopened Wednesday evening and possibly Thursday, according to guest services. Discounted park admission is being offered.The OCSO will conduct the main investigation, but the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will also conduct their ownOld But Similar In The SenseDawn Brancheau, 40, a veteran trainer at Orlando, FL's SeaWorld, was killed by an orca (killer whale) during a show at Shamu Stadium at the theme park. SeaWorld uses the stage name "Shamu" for any of the male or female orcas during a show.
While authorities have said that Brancheau fell into the holding tank at Shamu Stadium, and was then fatally injured by one of the orcas, witnesses disagree. Park guest Victoria Biniak told Local 6 that Brancheau had just finished explaining the show to the audience.
Then, Biniak said, the whale rose up from the water and grabbed the woman, in a horrific scene from some science fiction movie. Biniak told Local 6:
"He was thrashing her around pretty good. It was violent. (The whale) took off really fast in the tank, and then he came back, shot up in the air, grabbed the trainer by the waist and started thrashing around, and one of her shoes flew off."
In 2006, a trainer at SeaWorld was hospitalized after a killer whale grabbed him and twice held him underwater during a killer whale show at Shamu Stadium.
However, the orca in this case, Tillikum, nicknamed "Tilly," has had issues in the past. The killer whale was blamed for the drowning of one of his trainers in 1991 when he was performing at Sealand of the Pacific in British Columbia. After being sold to SeaWorld as a stud in 1992, "Tilly" was involved in a second incident when authorities found the body of a 27-year-old naked homeless man lying across his back in July 1999.
It was later theorized that the man had either hidden until SeaWorld closed, or somehow snuck into SeaWorld after hours. They believed that Tilly had done a little "horseplay" with the man. Sheriff's spokesman Jim Solomons said at the time: "He may have been a victim of what a whale would call horseplay, just playing around."
Ironically, in an interview in 2006, Dawn Brancheau spoke of entering the water with orcas, who could easily kill her. "You can't put yourself in the water unless you trust them and they trust you."