SeaWorld Trainer Killed by Whale
The orca that killed a female trainer at SeaWorld will not face the death penalty. That's the word after the death in Orlando of 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau. Dawn had previously been pictured in 2008 with the six-ton killer whale, named Tilikum, also known as Tili, that would take her life.
As families watched in horror, Tilikum dragged Dawn into the water from the side of the pool. SeaWorld spokeswoman Julie Scardina said, "Tilikum saw her ponytail there and actually grabbed onto that and that's how she went in the water."
Dawn suffered multiple traumatic injuries and drowned as Tilikum thrashed around the pool with her pinned in his jaws.
"My daughter saw him lashing out. He shook her violently," said spectator Victoria Binick.
Dawn's body lies covered by a blanket as Tili swims nearby. The tragedy is the third death connected to Tili. INSIDE EDITION's Paul Boyd asked, "Do you believe it's time for this whale to be euthanized?"
"Absolutely not. If you were to ask Dawn, that would be the last thing that she would want. We are committed to caring for this whale," said Scardina.
Just one month ago, Tiger Woods's children took in the same show in Orlando with Elin's sister, Josefin, who held the kids on her lap.
Dawn Brancheau's sister Diane Gross is also speaking out. She says working at SeaWorld was Dawn's dream job, saying, "Dawn, I believe, was nine years old when we went to SeaWorld on a family vacation, and right there, she said 'This is what I want to do.' "
Tili is the largest killer whale in captivity. He was known for being cranky and even dangerously unpredictable, so much so that no trainer was allowed in the water with him.
Former animal trainer Russ Rector says he warned SeaWorld in a letter three years ago about the dangers of forcing whales to perform. "They played Russian roulette with Dawn's life and she lost. They put her in front of a loaded gun that had gone off twice and killed two other people," said Rector.
INSIDE EDITION's Paul Boyd asked Scardina, "This killer whale has now been involved in some way in three deaths while in captivity. Did SeaWorld ignore warning signs?"
"No. We did respond to those warning signs, and for twenty years we've had safe interactions with Tilikum with the trainers," said Scardina.
The Florida tragedy is having a national impact. SeaWorld canceled its killer whale shows at all three locations Wednesday. At SeaWorld in San Diego the whales are being fed in a completely empty stadium. The sign that normally displays show times is blank.
SeaWorld is no stranger to drama at its killer whale shows. One show at SeaWorld in San Antonio turned into a nightmare when a whale repeatedly tried to dunk his trainer. Even as the trainer tries to escape, the whale grabs him and takes him back into the water. Finally, the trainer manages to soothe the giant, and let co-workers know he's all right. Now, this latest tragedy casts an even darker shadow over killer whale shows.