Whale kills Fla. SeaWorld trainer as guests watch
ORLANDO, Fla. – A killer whale killed a SeaWorld Orlando trainer who slipped or fell in its tank Wednesday, drowning her in front of a horrified audience.
Dan Brown, president of the Orlando park, said the trainer was one of the park’s most experienced.
He would not answer questions about whether it happened during a performance, but an audience member said a show was just starting.
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,” Victoria Biniak told WKMG-TV.
Jim Solomons of the Orlando County Sheriff’s Office, said the trainer slipped or fell into the whale’s tank, which seemed to contradict Biniak’s description.
“This appears to be an accidental death, a tragic death,” said Solomons.
Neither Brown nor Solomons would release the trainer’s name. The park is investigating, and Mike Wald, a spokesman for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration office in Atlanta, said his agency has dispatched an investigator from Tampa.
The guests were asked to leave and the park was closed.
There have been several previous attacks on whale trainers at SeaWorld parks.
In November 2006, trainer Kenneth Peters, 39, was bitten and held underwater several times by a 7,000-pound killer whale during a show at SeaWorld’s San Diego park.
He escaped with a broken foot. The 17-foot-long orca who attacked him was the dominant female of SeaWorld San Diego’s seven killer whales. She had attacked Peters two other times, in 1993 and 1999.
In 2004, another whale at the company’s San Antonio park tried to hit one of the trainers and attempted to bite him. He also escaped.
In December, a whale drowned a trainer at a Spanish zoo.
At the Orlando SeaWorld, the body of a naked man was found scratched, bruised and draped over a 5-ton orca named Tilikum in July 1999. Daniel Dukes, 27, reportedly made his way past security at SeaWorld, remaining in the park after it had closed. Wearing only his underwear, Dukes either jumped, fell or was pulled into the frigid water of Tilikum’s huge tank.
An autopsy ruled that he died of hypothermia in the 50-degree water. But they also said it appeared Tilikum bit the man and tore off his swimming trunks, likely believing he was a toy to play with.
Dukes’ parents filed a lawsuit against the park later that year but ended up withdrawing it.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.
Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User