Orca involved in deadly accident considered dangerous by staff

Credit: NBC

Orca involved in deadly accident considered dangerous by staff


by Jinah Kim


Posted on February 25, 2010 at 4:11 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 25 at 4:12 PM

SeaWorld Orlando says it plans to keep working with the killer whale blamed in Wednesday's deadly attack against one of its trainers. 

This, even as new information surfaced about the Orca's violent past and what happened moments before the attack.
A witness at SeaWorld Orlando took home video just seconds before Wednesday's deadly attack. 

It shows trainer Dawn Brancheau laying next to Tilikum the whale, playing with him and rubbing his head. 

Moments later, spectators said, the killer whale turned on her, dragging her in by her ponytail and tossing her around until she died.

"Bobbed up, came down with a person in his mouth. Was shaking her violently, her shoe flew off. Sirens immediately went off, people started running everywhere," said Victoria Biniak who witnessed the attack.

SeaWorld closed its Shamu Shows on both coasts Thursday, as Orca experts discuss what went wrong.

40-year-old Brancheau was one of SeaWorld's most experienced trainers who knew about Tilikum's troubled and aggressive history. 

He and two other whales killed a trainer at a British Columbia water park in 1991.

Eight years later, a homeless man who broke into SeaWorld Orlando after hours was found the next morning in Tilikum's pool.

The death was ruled a drowning and not officially linked to the whale.

Because of this, trainers were not allowed in the water with him and Wednesday’s death occurred after a show.

"This is one of those times that is baffling to us and we're gonna evaluate this and make sure that we try to understand it," said Chuck Tompkins, the Corporate Curator at SeaWorld.

The incident again raises the question of whether the ocean's most dangerous animals should be kept as performers.

"In some cases there is educational value and in some cases facilities make a lot of money off these animals,” said Philippe Cousteau of EarthEcho International.

For now, SeaWorld plans to keep Tilikum, but says the procedures for working with him will change.

There's no word yet when the Shamu shows will re-open to the public.

But the head trainer says when they do, audiences won't notice much different about the performances themselves.