The trainer was interacting with one of the whales after the show when when the attack occurred. The area was immediately evacuated and Orange County authorities called to the scene.
Please post additional details in the comments, if you were on the scene.
Update: The trainer was Dawn Brancheau, and we join with our readers and theme park fans everywhere in sending our condolences to her family. SeaWorld has closed the Believe and Dine With Shamu shows at SeaWorld Orlando and SeaWorld San Diego, pending an investigation.
The whale, Tillikum, has been connected with two other deaths, including the drowning of a trainer at Sealand of the Pacific in Canada in 1991 and the drowning of a SeaWorld trespasser in 1999. None of the trainers ever went into the water with Tillikum, given both his size and history, but that safeguard apparently was not enough to protect Dawn today.Tweet
I think it must have happened after the main show, and we were in the park for a further hour and we heard nothing. The first that we knew was when we turned on the tv.
Totally shocked and thank the lord that we didn't see this horrible tragedy.
So so sad, poor lady.
One wonders if Blackstone will initiate major changes given their history. I doubt they're pleased at such a tragedy in the infancy of their ownership.
My heartfelt condolences go to the trainer's friends and family.
From me to Ms. Rose, "SHUT UP!"
As I have posted here before Merlin/Blackwell's company policies have always dictated that animals in their attractions should be DISPLAYED but not be a part of PERFORMANCE.
After the fall out of this tragedy, one hopes the company will re-think its business model.
And, frankly, while we offer our condolences to the family and friends of the trainer who was lost, our hearts go out to the surviving trainers and the animals who have created a bond in an environment that is decidedly artificial.
To be honest I am a little bit shocked at the way the news is being presented on the TV here in orlando. Being a brit on holiday, my take on things was always going to be a little different. But I can't get over how much the media is speculating and not giving hard truthful facts, something we do not get in the british media.
This terrible accident must have happened after the main "believe" show, and it is heartbreaking!
It sounds like the media folks may have found themselves an attention wh*re (wow, can't believe we can't use the "w" word!) to give everyone a sound bite that has little to no relation to reality. There's a vast difference in a trainer falling into the water and a whale inexplicably revving up and jumping out of the water to grab them (which sounds about as plausible as the ending of Jaws: The Revenge).
This is a sad day and I feel horrible for the trainer and her family. That said, Sea World needs to be as open as possible as quickly as possible to stop the misinformation from being spread.
And as an aside to the anonymous poster who talked about how this was to be expected because the animals are abused and starved: you're misinformed. If you've ever known any of the trainers at Sea World, you would know that most of them LOVE the animals they work with and wouldn't allow any such abuse to take place. It's a shame that some folks perpetuate these (unverified) stories that make the folks at Sea World sound like cliched mustache-twirling circus elephant trainers mercilessly brandishing their boom stick.
Back to point though, my thoughts go out to the family of the trainer and her colleagues at Seaworld...anyway you look at it this is a lose lose situation...very sad.
FWIW, my sympathies and condolences are extended to everyone involved. It would be a much better world if tragedies like this one NEVER happened.
From the last that I heard, it was the "Lunch with Shamu" event that this tragedy happened.
The sickening thing is while searching for it, PETA had to rub it in on their site. Truely terrible! I can't believe they went there so fast! Likely the first no named poster was from there~
Just one more correction, though. Not only are those "killer whales" more properly called "orcas," they are not actually whales. They are a type of dolphin.
As another side note, here in the Pacific Northwest where they live in the wild, the males' dorsal fins don't flop over like they do in captivity. The last I heard, nobody really knows why that happens when they live in a tank.
But, once more and to the point, this is a very sad day for all concerned.
Now for the record, trainers don't get into the water with Tilly (at least they didn't back between 96-00, I can't see that changing). He has training but due to the past problems with him in a BC park where an inexperienced trainer was killed. From the previous Shamu shows he was mainly for jumping and splashing from what I can remember.
I may not like some things about Seaworld but I can say those animals are the most spoiled, pampered things I've ever seen. In my next life, I plan to come back as a fat and pampered Sealion! Now aside from that, No people shouldn't be in the water with some of the animals but these trainers ALL know the risks and they love their animals. They accept that and happily go to work, talk with a trainer sometime.
I'm not a huge fan of animal tricks. Captivity for the purpose of observation and education is one thing, but to make them do back-flips while playing crappy music has never much entertained me. I'm not a PETA supporter by any means, but these shows really don't serve much of a purpose, and, frankly, aren't nearly as entertaining as some of the exhibits or rides.
On that note, I find it upsetting that this and the death of luger Nodar Kumaritashvili at the Olympics are the hottest tragedies circling the news right now, yet many Haitians continue to die in the earthquake tragedies every day. Two deaths, both in fields involving voluntary dangerous activities, are seemingly more important than the deaths of regular civilians who couldn't prevent their fates.
Wild animals in captivity and as part of performance entertainment is always going to be a contentious issue. It comes as no great surprise that the Media are flapping in typical knee-jerk reaction to this terrible event. However, as a fellow Brit mentioned already, they need to take a step back, get all the information and then make a more considered response.
It is an extremely sensitive story and needs careful handling. We don't need lynch-mob coverage.
I'd just like to thank both Robert and Laurie Niles for presenting the story in an intelligent and sympathetic manner.
I do feel it necessary to point out one very major misconception that people seem to have about this "attack." Tilli has been in trouble before simply because he does not understand his own strength. He was not "attacking" Dawn because he was angry, or frustrated at being held in captivity, or hungry or abused, or any of the other reasons being bantered about. Tilli was playing. This is how orcas and whales play with one another in the wild. They nip at each other, bite, roll, and push each other under the water. That's why the trainers don't swim with him. He forgets that humans can't do those behaviors and survive (or he never learned that). Sea World felt that it was safe for the trainers to interact with him, as long as they stayed out of the water. It appears as if in interacting with him this time, Tilli decided that he wanted Dawn to play more aggressively and pulled her in. It is common orca behavior to breach or even jump out of the water to claim their prey, and I suspect he just got too exhuberant and grabbed Dawn. I've seen up close how affectionate the orcas are with their trainers and how the trainers feel about the orcas, and I don't doubt that this was in fact a horrible accident, and not a vicious attack by a deranged animal.
Tilli will not be put down. He's not only a protected animal, but a valuable sire to most if not all of the current offspring, and in addition, Dawn wouldn't have wanted her friend destroyed. What will most likely happen is that he'll either be placed in a tank somewhere for viewing only, or be put under observation in another facility. He will probably miss the human interactions. Orcas, being of the dolphin family, do actually enjoy the interaction.
I Respond: I don't think the word "attack" is proper. Attack implies the animal had (even if by instinct) treated the person as a target to be over-powered. And while in every case "playtime" may not have been the "motivation," I have no problem asserting that mere the proximity of human to orca may have been the cause of a sizable number of these incidents.
There have been other incidents with orcas who have drowned trainers by dragging them under or by trapping them underwater with their bodies. One recent one here in Orlando involved an orca trapping a trainer against the glass. The trainer survived and again speculation was that the orca just didn't realize that this fun game wasn't fun for the human.
As to the assertion that there have been no attacks on humans in the wild, that's probably true as there have been no documented cases that I can think of. That being said, there are also very few documented cases of humans getting into the water with orcas in the wild due to the frigid conditions in which they swim. In addition, orcas in the wild have no idea what a human is, and having determined that they're not worth bothering with, leave them alone. Humans and orcas interact very closely in research and aquarium conditions like Sea World, and that raises the odds of an accident. Still, judging by the number of orcas in captivity, and the number of times a trainer interacts or gets into the water with them, the number of deaths/accidents is still very low. It's sad that it happens even once, but to compare it to attacks in the wild is a little like comparing the number of people who get hit by trains while crossing the tracks to the number of people killed by trains on the highway.
God bless you Dawn and family ! Thanks for a Life and Job well done !
My sympathy to the Dawns' family.
Check out the link for the video and you can watch on full screen.
There's always going to be the chance that this can happen. It rarely does happen, but it's always possible...just like it's possible for a zoo animal to attack, or a show tiger to turn on it's tamer. This particular whale had a history with another trainer (who died the same way), and was kept isolated for a reason. It doesn't seem that he was killing her for food, rather that he was "playing".
Do I think the show should close? No I don't think it's particularly necessary. The trainers and handlers have done this for years, performing hundreds of shows per year without incident, and it doesn't seem that the trainer would have wanted that to happen. Regardless, it's still a tragedy, and my thoughts and prayers go out to the family.
blackstone is not really concerned about the shows...thats what they want you to stay focused on..so you dont learn they really make most money from "science research" AI artificial insemination and the science research is also what the trainers observe but most of what the trainers observe cannot not be released to the public. behavior patterns of agitated whales...and when and why and how...they are not paying any attention to the communication of the whales....they are just demanding the whales participate and then something goes wrong and its a violent whale? if the whale was violent he would have crushed all three people with his teeth, or ate him, or snappe d them in half... he played with them...he barely caused any harm...he did not know they would drown...how could he...he see them swimming around with the whales all the time...boundaries are blurred...its so obvious....please we need to PROTECT him...he is better off dead than masturbated and held in a lonely pool not allowed to play like the others...i dont want to see him die ....but it would be better than rape.
“This is a giant warning sign that society needs to rethink this question of holding large predators in captivity,” says Chris Palmer, author of “Shooting in the Wild,” a book about wild animals in captivity, who also teaches at American University. “Having a trainer killed this way can’t justify whatever benefits we get from conservation or protection.”
International Marine Mammal Project for the Earth Island Institute
Protect Tillikum and other trainers
Why not use your real name?
But I will have to ask after quoting you:
Tillikum is the fist whale they have successfully masturbated into submission, they use an electric probe stimulation and hold condom to collect sperm and sell it
Like Anthony pointed out, why not post with your real name? Esp, if so passionate about what you know so much on?
Update: Just did a little digging, and found out that Tilikum was actually trained for artificial insemination. Still, envoking a word such as rape to get a point across is in poor taste.
Also, have you people who call SWO evil forgotten all the good they do? Perhaps you should go look at all the conservation projects they help out and donate too. Ever live in Central Florida and have a wild animal in trouble? SWO will take that animal and help them as best as possible where anyplace else would simply put the animal down without a second thought. I may not agree with everything SWO does or their policies, but I can tell you they do more good then bad.
Why not go point your fingers where it belongs, all the small roadside zoos and tourist traps that do mistreat their animals? Perhaps donate to an under-funded zoo in Dawn's name to improve the living condition of animals that need it? Join a rescue project that saves marine mammals? Try the Florida Manatee rescue, they are always happy for the help! Do something with your mouth and hands other then give lip service to something.
Lets look at the oldest whale in a park around. Its at SWSD. Her name is Corky. All new trainers are put with this whale to begin with. Why cause she loves working with people and is like a big teddy bear ive been told. She knows limits and what she can and cant do. But i guess she is forced to do all that. Cause yes you can force a 6 ton whale to do what you want.
Now your statement that the only exercise they get is during a show?? So the whales are tied up to the side of the pool when not in a show so they cant swim around. Funny i have a season pass that gets me into all the parks. I go to SWSD at least 7 or 8 times a year and support everything they do. I always see the whales swimming and playing with each other in the pools. Jumping without anyone telling them to do. Ive been there when they do well in a show and the show goes on and they laugh it off and let the whales do what they want. When no ones is around the whales are doing whatever. As soon as they see someone they are at the side wanting to be rubbed fed or whatever.
Yes this was a tragic accident. But i can promise you this. If she had survived she would be right back in that water and close to tilly as soon as she could. Just like Mr Peters at SWSD does with the whale that has hurt him 3 times now.
You people state they should be released back into the wild. Lets take a look at the one whale that was released back into the wild. Free Willy. It died what less than a year after being released. I take it you think the pets rule show is cruel to and those animals should be released also.
I am responding with my own log in so i welcome the peta members to contact me. I am sorry this is not spell checked or grammer checked.
You gotta nuke something.
And, yes, well stated, Brian.
Now, I am going to release my cat into the wild for a bit. Later.
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The orca was playing, and probably responding to being starved into training and performing.