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AlexB

Trainer killed by whale at SeaWorld's Shamu stadium in Orlando

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Trainer tells audience what they're in for Whale then kills her Whale named as Tilikum A FEMALE trainer was killed by a killer whale at SeaWorlds Shamu stadium in Orlando, Florida, according to Jim Solomons with the Orange County Sheriff's office. In a news conference at 4.30pm local time (8.30am AEDT), Mr Solomons said that the 40 year old trainer was in a “whale holding area” when she slipped and was fatally injured by one of the whales. Mr Solomons said that "it appeared to be an accidental death.” Mr Solomons was joined at the news conference by Dan Brown, the park’s general manager, who read a brief statement in which he described the victim as “one of our most experienced trainers” and said the park had initiated an investigation into the incident. "We have never in the history of our parks experienced an incident like this and all of our standing operating procedures will come under review as part of this investigation," Mr Brown said. Asked for more details on the trainer, an emotional Mr Brown said: "Please bear with us, we've just lost a member of our family." The brief news conference ended with many reporters' questions left unanswered, such as whether the attack occurred in front of spectators. Witness Victoria Biniak described the attack to local station WKMG, saying the veteran trainer had just finished telling the audience about the show they were about to witness when the whale struck. "The trainer was explaining different things about the whale ... and then the trainer that was down there walked away from the window ... and then Telly (the whale) took off really fast in the tank and he came back, shot up in the air, grabbed the trainer by the waist and started thrashing (her) around," Ms Biniak told the station. Ms Biniak added that the attack was violent enough for the trainer’s shoe to fly off. The witness's account could not be corroborated. The Orlando Sentinel reported that Orange County Fire & Rescue responded at 2pm local time (6am AEDT) to a report of a person who was not breathing. Mr Biniak told the station that the whale, named Tilikum, or Telly for short, does not typically have a trainer in its tank because it is too large. WKMG reported that Tilikum is a nearly 30-year-old, 12,300-pound bull Orca. Tilikum was previously involved in two fatal incidents. On February 21, 1991, the whale, then living at a location in British Columbia, Canada, was involved in an incident that resulted in the death of 20-year-old female trainer Keltie Byrene. Tilikum was moved to Orlando in 1992. In 1999, a man who snuck into the park after closing time was found dead inside the whale’s tank.

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Very sad story with a variety of conflicting reports. The main thing I find worrying is that this whale has been involved in three deaths now. The article below states the whale "suddenly grabbed the trainer by the upper arm, tossed her around in his mouth and pulled her beneath the water as dozens of tourists looked on in horror". This is odd because the article posted above says the trainer was in a whale holding area and slipped.

SeaWorld Orlando trainer killed in whale attack An experienced female trainer at Sea World Orlando, Dawn Brancheau, was fatally injured by one of the whales. A veteran animal trainer whose dream was to work at SeaWorld's Shamu Stadium was killed Wednesday when one of the show's killer whales dragged her underwater and she drowned. SeaWorld said Dawn Brancheau, 40, was pulled into the 12,000-pound whale's tank about 2 p.m. Witnesses told the Orlando Sentinel that Tilikum, the largest whale at the theme park, suddenly grabbed Brancheau by the upper arm, tossed her around in his mouth and pulled her beneath the water as dozens of tourists looked on in horror. Brazilian tourist João Lúcio da Costa Sobrinho, 28, and his girlfriend, Talita Oliveira, 20, watched the attack from an underwater viewing area where they had gone to take photos. Suddenly, they saw a woman in the whale's jaws, her face bloody. The whale circled round and round, turning her over and over, they said. "It was terrible," Sobrinho said. "It's very difficult to see the image." Witnesses who watched the attack while eating at the "Dine with Shamu" show told the Sentinel a female trainer was petting a whale when it grabbed her and plunged into the water. It reappeared on the other side of the tank and leapt up holding the woman, they said. Within minutes, an alarm sounded, and security workers escorted the tourists out. Some people were screaming, and children were crying, Sobrinho and Oliveira said. The scene was more orderly at "Dine with Shamu." "It is 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," SeaWorld President Dan Brown said in a statement to the media. "We've initiated an investigation to determine, to the extent possible, what occurred." Brancheau had worked at the park since February 1994. Ever since she visited SeaWorld with her family about 30 years ago, Brancheau's goal had been to train killer whales, said her mother, Marion Loverde of Indiana. "Everyone knew that was her dream," Loverde said. Brancheau's supervisor, Chuck Tompkins, said Brancheau knew the risks of the job. ‘"She loved what she did, and she loved being with the animal. And she understood the risk," said Tompkins, corporate curator in charge of animal behavior for SeaWorld Parks & Resorts. "Dawn knew how to be able to connect with animals and with people." When Orange County firefighters arrived at the park within five minutes of receiving a 911 call, Brancheau was already dead, a spokesman said. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration dispatched an investigator from Tampa. Tilikum has been involved in two previous deaths. He was one of three whales blamed for the 1991 drowning of a trainer while he performed at the now-defunct Sealand of the Pacific in British Columbia. In 1999, the dead body of a naked man was found lying across Tilikum's back at SeaWorld Orlando. Investigators concluded that the man, who had sneaked into the park after hours or hidden there until it closed, likely drowned after suffering hypothermia in the 55-degree water. They also said Tilikum appeared to have bitten the man and torn off his swimming trunks, perhaps thinking he was a toy. In 2005, a trainer received minor injuries when an "overly excited" whale bumped the trainer during a performance, park officials said. Because of the Orlando accident, the afternoon Shamu show at SeaWorld San Diego was canceled Wednesday. "We're terribly saddened by the loss of the member of our SeaWorld family — it doesn't matter what park," spokesman David Koontz said. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a longtime critic of SeaWorld's practices, again called on the park "to stop confining oceangoing mammals to an area that to them is like the size of a bathtub," it said in a statement. "It's not surprising when these huge, smart animals lash out." Many other animal-rights activists have long criticized SeaWorld and other marine parks for keeping orcas and other wildlife in captivity. Russ Rector, a former dolphin trainer in Fort Lauderdale, said keeping the animals captive makes them dangerous. "Captivity is abusive to these animal. And the abuse mounts up. And when these animals snap — just for a minute — they're so big and can be so dangerous that it's like a shotgun," Rector said. "It does an incredible amount of damage in just a moment." At SeaWorld on Wednesday afternoon, guests were turned away from the walkways that lead to Shamu Stadium and were told the 5:30 p.m. show was canceled. Outside the entrance to the park, people were talking about the accident. Several said the whales weren't behaving normally during the 12:30 p.m. show. Brad Sultan of Tampa said one of three whales that was supposed to create a triangle with three trainers didn't do it. Another whale that was supposed to swim around the tank and splash made it only about a quarter of the way, he said.

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The article below states the whale "suddenly grabbed the trainer by the upper arm, tossed her around in his mouth and pulled her beneath the water as dozens of tourists looked on in horror". This is odd because the article posted above says the trainer was in a whale holding area and slipped.
I know, I found this odd too... Perhaps the whole story will come out with more witness reports. Also, you don't need to quote the entire OP, :P

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^ if by OP you mean original post i didn't. I quoted another article that somewhat conflicted the first.
Ok, sorry I misread. On topic: So it actually happened at the dine with Shamu show? Which means that only a few people would have been there to see it (relief). It's a huge loss for the park, and it must be hard for all the other trainers. Going through photos of our trip there last October, we have pictures of the trainer that was attacked, training one of the whales (months ago) in the "dine with Shamu" show. I don't know if it's the same whale that actually attacked her. It would be sad and ironic if it was.

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