Orca Kills Trainer In Front Of Sea World Crowd


LOS ANGELES TIMES: An orca killed an animal trainer at SeaWorld in Orlando on Wednesday as dozens of horrified tourists watched, park and law enforcement officials said. The killer whale had been involved in two previous deaths elsewhere. Dawn Brancheau, 40, [pictured, above] was finishing up a session with Tilikum [pictured, above], a 12,000-pound male killer whale, after a show. Witnesses said the killer whale grabbed her by the upper arm, disappeared underwater with her and swam to the other side of the tank, thrashing Brancheau around until she drowned. At least two dozen tourists looked on from above the whale tank and an underwater viewing area. The incident was eerily similar to one at San Diego SeaWorld four years ago, but that trainer survived. In Orlando, Brazilian tourist Joao Lucio DeCosta Sobrinho, 28, and girlfriend Talita Oliveira, 20, were at an underwater viewing area when they saw the killer whale with Brancheau in its mouth. The couple said they had watched the show two days earlier and returned to take pictures. orca.thumbnail.jpgBut this time, they said, the orcas appeared agitated even before the incident. “It was terrible. It’s very difficult to see,” Sobrinho said. Brancheau was bleeding from the face or mouth, they said, and the killer whale turned her over and over as it swam. MORE

ORLANDO SENTINEL: SeaWorld Orlando has always known that Tilikum, a 12,000-pound orca that killed trainer Dawn Brancheau on Wednesday, could be a particularly dangerous killer whale. SeaWorld trainers were forbidden from swimming with Tilikum, as they often did with the resort’s seven other orcas. Only about a dozen of 28 handlers, including Brancheau, had been specifically trained to work with him from the edge of SeaWorld’s pools. That was in part because of his size: At an average weight of nearly 6 tons, Tilikum — nicknamed Tilly — was the largest orca at any of SeaWorld’s parks. But it was also because of his ominous history. In 1991, Tilikum and two female killer whales dragged trainer Keltie Byrne underwater, drowning her in front of spectators at Sealand of the Pacific, a defunct aquarium in Victoria, British Columbia. Acquired by SeaWorld the next year to breed with female orcas, he was involved in a second incident in July 1999 when the naked body of a man who had apparently sneaked into SeaWorld after hours to swim with the whales was found draped dead across his back. MORE

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