February 24, 2010

SeaWorld Trainer Killed By Killer Whale

Posted: 06:37 PM ET

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(CNN) - A killer whale killed a trainer Wednesday afternoon at SeaWorld's Shamu Stadium in Orlando, Florida, a public information officer for the Orange County Sheriff's Office said.

The woman, 40, was in the whale holding area about 2 p.m. when "she apparently slipped or fell into the tank and was fatally injured by one of the whales," Jim Solomons said.

"There's no sense of foul play; right now, this appears to be an accident."

"One of our most experienced animal trainers drowned" in the accident, said Dan Brown, vice president and general manager of SeaWorld Orlando. He said an investigation will be carried out.

"We'll make our findings known in due course," he said. "We've never in the history of our parks experienced an incident like this. All standard operating procedures will be reviewed." He would not elaborate.

"Please bear with us; we've just lost a member of our family," he said.

A patron who did not witness the event said the park refunded her entry fee, although a spokeswoman said the park remained open.


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Jessie from Auckland, NZ   February 24th, 2010 7:22 pm ET

Sorry to hear about this sad tragedy. Condolences to all concerned.

Animals are unpredictable at the best of times. They are from the wild, it is in their nature. Humans can never really tame them. They were meant to be free.

still me just a new name   February 24th, 2010 7:31 pm ET

So sorry to hear about this tragedy...we have to remember that wild animals can be trained but not tamed...also be careful around them.

A. Smith, Oregon   February 24th, 2010 8:00 pm ET

Jump, roll-over, no I'm not food. Don't eat me, entertain the crowd.

People often erroneously forget that Killer Whales are hard-core Killers. They are the most intelligent killers on Earth other than Human beings and unlike most human beings, Killer Whale pods are growing ever more intelligent on how to trap and kill its prey.

Killer Whales chase sperm whales until the Sperm Whales are entirely fatigued, and then rip out its tongue and eat it. Not very compassionate for the Sperm Whale that is going to die a slow, painful death thru starvation. However, thanks mostly to Hollywood, Willie the Ocra is seen mostly as a huge friendly black and white dolphin, like the baby boomer named Flipper.

Unlike the very few Dolphins which the US Navy trains to be cold hearted killers of people in the water, Dolphins have historically shown a great deal of harmony and compassion with Human beings. Countless times Dolphins have rescued swimmers, and have protected them from sharks. There are many phenomenal traits which Dolphins have and exhibit.

Killer Whales however are not Dolphins and if a Killer Whale has a bad day, that can translate to a terrible accident which appeared to have occurred today during Willie the Orca's performance.

I hope the Ocra involved is not mistreated as a result of this trainers death.

j   February 24th, 2010 8:57 pm ET

please....pleaseee...boycott seaworld....whales should be free in the ocean.......these little pools are like a jail cell.....what did they ever do except be more intelligent then hannity and his cult that do not even care about human beings

Dodie   February 24th, 2010 9:47 pm ET

Orcas (Orcinus) like their cousins the dolphins all belong to the Delphinidae Family. Orcas are the largest of the dolphins. The Delphinidae Family has the largest brain (per weight ratio to body) of any species on this planet including Homo sapiens. Their developed and convoluted cortex, which is an area responsible for sophisticated cognitive processing, has less convoluted areas than man. Therefore, it has not been determined whether the Orca or Homeo Sapiens are more intelligent. With this knowledge, it would be understandable why containment of these intelligent beings would be akin to placing a human in a cage for years. Intelligent beings whether the orca or human under incredible stress when confined, will start to develop abnormal behaviors.

Dr. John Lilly, a neuroscientist explored human consciousness and dolphin communication. He conducted years of research on the bottle nose dolphin in Hawaii. He was tossed out of the scientific world as his hypothesis stated: the Delphinidae, specific the Orca and bottle Nose dolphin’s intelligence is superior to mans. Dr. Lilly experienced a tragedy when administering LSD to his favorite two dolphins who dove to the bottom of the tank and drowned. It has been said they committed suicide. You can see why he was defamed; however, tossing out all his years of scientific research was a tragedy. The Orcinus is called the ‘killer whale” because the open ocean Orca pods kill whales @ A. Smith stated. The resident pods like J, and K, off the coast of Vancouver do not eat meat…only fish!

Deborah   February 24th, 2010 9:50 pm ET

This is such a tragic story, for the trainer that was killed, and the orca that has been held in captivity. Regardless if Seaworld did not go out and capture the orca, they kept her for breeding purposes. Her offspring will never be domesticated, it is born a wild animal, and those orcas can never have the free life they were meant to have in the wild. CNN needs to interview Ric O'Barry, the former trainer of Flipper. He has spent most of his life trying to educate people about the captivity of these gorgeous creatues. And he doesn't make a boat load of money off thes animals. but you can't say that about Seaworld can you?!! For the record, killer whales are not whales. They most definately are a species of dolphin.

AlphaPoe1   February 24th, 2010 10:01 pm ET

So sad and so depressing. When are people ever going to learn that wild animals are just that, wild, and even if you raise them from babies, they are unpredictable. You can't expect them to be puppies and kittens. Whales should be free in the ocean, and this one can't be blamed for this act. It's a wild animal.

And J, you're absolutely right about Hannity and his cult, especially Michele Bachman. They are inhuman and evil.

katie09   February 24th, 2010 10:24 pm ET

Hey...Sea World, get a clue...close your damn money making machine, at the expense of these god created creatures, down. Stop now!

Why anyone would PAY to go see these beautiful creatures captured and forced to live, basically, in a bath tub all their lives is beyond me.

SeaWorld, these animals (whales, orcas, etc..) should be set free. How dare these people capture these creatures and force them to live such a tortured life, all for the sake of money.

Shame on you, Sea World. Shame on you!

Close down now, all of them, now. The zoos too!

Lorraine   February 24th, 2010 10:35 pm ET

Boycott Seaworld..................agreed.

Gary   February 24th, 2010 10:46 pm ET

The same incident with the trainer being killed by the whale happened in Victoria. Where Tilicum came from.
Was this the same whale?

James31   February 24th, 2010 10:48 pm ET

My condolences go to the family of the trainer who was killed. Her family said that she absolutely loved all animals. I feel certain that her first wish would be that no one blame the whale in any way.

C   February 24th, 2010 10:49 pm ET

Everyone yelling and screaming about shut down sea world and realease all of the animals blah blah blah, who owns a dog, cat, fish etc..... are all of you people going to release your animals back into the wild??? its sad this woman lost her life, tragic!, but when the crocodile hunter dies did everyone scream, stop making animal videos? shut down this industry!!!! NO no one said anything, Erwin invaded these animals natural habitats and screwed with them ungodly, but no Erwin wasnt a corp. just a man with a video camera. everyone wants to bring down big business, thumbs up people keep whining lets bring our economy even farther down, i dont know about you but i love this country, if you all want to take on a cause put up a flag stop sending money to other countries, hug your neighbor, light a cigarette drink a beer, buy stuff you dont need, LIVE THE AMERICAN DREAM, throw a steak on the gril and ENJOY LIFE, stop crying about all the "wrong" in the world help your neighbor not people 3000 miles away theres no unity in this country, dont get me wrong i love animals, but we are at the top of the food chain for a reason. PETA people eat tasty animals, its time for PETA to feed a child, save a fellow human, you wanna help animals adopt a dog/cat.

Thelma   February 24th, 2010 10:53 pm ET

Why didn't the trainers have dart guns available for emergencies? After all wild animals are unpredictable.

Thelma   February 24th, 2010 10:58 pm ET

For safety the trainers should wear diving masks. Those animals have drowned people before.

Simple safety measures would have saved the trainer's life.

John H   February 24th, 2010 11:07 pm ET

Killer Whales? Is this a scientific designation or are they actually called Orcas? Why do we choose to call them Killer? These creatures are intelligent meat eaters something that we ought to be able to relate to. They kill other creatures in order to survive. If one of their trainers is mistaken for a seal or a toy of some sort, what right do we have to criticize. I am sorry for the loss of this young lady who truely loved these creatures and had to be aware of their potential. This is just my opinion, but I believe that some of God's creatures were never intended to be imprisoned for our entertainment and should be permited to live their lives out in the same freedom we would ask for ourselves. As for the lady who commented about sending our pet dogs, cats, etc back into the wild; it is too late for that. Cats and dogs are domesticated creatures and depend upon us for their well being. For them, being our life partners is a desireable thing and most of them would suffer if put out into the wild. Consider all the strays you see wandering free. Do you really think they would not welcome a loving home and the security of caring owners? There is no comparison between the needs of creatures such as Orcas, Lions, Tigers and etc. Oh My and the needs of domesticated creatures such as our dogs and cats. If it is possible to set this particular whale free in his natural environment and still be certain of his safety, then that is what should be done. If not, then he should be made as comfortable as we can make him for the remainder of his life and should not be used as an entertainment at some amusement park.

KELLY   February 24th, 2010 11:27 pm ET

My 7 year old son was attacked by a dog and i can tell you from a first hand experience that an animal is an animal FIRST! We take in these animals as pets or for our own amusement and we should really learn that we do not have the right to take creatures out of their natural habitat and expect them to lose all of their natural instincts, its unfair and these things will just keep happening. my heartfelt condolences to the family. Lets learn from this people.

Ates Ertan   February 24th, 2010 11:33 pm ET

they are talking about putting the killer whale to death, Hanna said that particular whale had 46 million enounters with human beings, they say that air travel is the safest form of transportation does that mean that after TWA 800 crash out of New York if we would have banned flying then Buffalo crash wouldnt happen and no lives would be lost, get real... she enjoyed what she was doing, unfortunately she died.. I am sorry for her family and friends. I am sure if you would ask her she would prefer to lose her life doing what she loves... ask to GI's putting their lives on the line everyday, yes some of them do it because of neccessity, but they are all willing to die for their country

judiemcr   February 24th, 2010 11:35 pm ET

I agree with my fellow bloggers let these animals go they were not meant to be held captive.What is wrong with these corporations ? Well we know don't we $$$$$$. A Circus is the worse animal abuse I have ever seen.Please boycott these places speak for those who can't.

Gerald Jolly   February 25th, 2010 1:03 am ET

Although a sad thing to read, I must admit that I do not feel sorry for the victim.

Orcas are incredibly intelligent mamals, they live in family groups, much like we humans.

Incarcerating a mamal or a human for no crime is considered "INHUMAN"

I truly believe that this Orca was simply demonstating his anger over being trapped in a pool that is 300 trillion times smaller than the environment he was meant to inhabitate, is just asking for retaliation from a mamal that is probably as intelligent in their own way as we are.

It is my hope that we will see many more of these kind of results for those who wish to incarcerating them

Three cheers for the Orca.

BOO BOO BOO for the MORONS that wish to gain financially by capturing them.

Classmate of Keltie Byrne   February 25th, 2010 1:49 am ET

Tilicum was previously involved in the death of a trainer in Victoria, BC, Canada at SeaLand of the Pacific (closed permanently shortly afterward). Keltie Byrne was a classmate at UVic and a trainer at SeaLand when she was killed in an incident eerily similar to what just happened at Sea World in Orlando. Keltie slipped and fell into the pool with the Orcas (Tilicum and two others) and was dragged underwater repeatedly as they "appeared to play with her" until she drowned. Tilicum was transfered to Sea World not long after the incident. This could be pathological behaviour of a highly intelligent 30 year old marine mammal that has been in captivity since the age of two. Why do we need to keep so many in captivity? Some argue it is necessary for education. However, don't we have enough video footage and scientific data from captive animals already or is it really just a for profit "show."

Anne Godsey   February 25th, 2010 2:14 am ET

I've been in fear for 40 years of getting a phone call to tell me a female trainer has been killer by a killer whale. Today I got that call from CNN. I barely escaped an attack by Shamu 40 years ago at Sea World. It was the most horrific experience I would ever know. I am devastated and saddened to hear that Dawn has met this fate and I send all my sincere sympathy to her family. Sea World unfortunately does not care. All they care about is money. If this incident will bring them more attendance then that's all they want. Don't expect them to have any remorse or take any blame or to even care about the human suffering. They are there to make money. Don't expect them to care about the mammals who really belong in the wild. They will say it is for educational purposes. Right! There is no education in what they do, there is just money. Believe me.
My heart goes out to Dawn's family

Philipp   February 25th, 2010 5:37 am ET

You should see orcas in the wilderness and NOT in Sea Worlds. There are enough places to see them. Orcas are wild animals and not pets!!! Sad for the family but somehow everything comes back sooner or later.

Jessie from Auckland, NZ   February 25th, 2010 6:00 am ET

There are other stories of even elephants going crazy and running amuk and turning on people and tigers in the circus turning on their trainers or in zoos etc., etc.

It happens all the time. Might be best to just leave them alone in their natural environments.

Jessie from Auckland, NZ   February 25th, 2010 6:03 am ET

Sorry, I forgot to add, that unless they are an endangered species then it could be different.

Connie ~ IL   February 25th, 2010 11:37 am ET

Bless the victim's family, this is really sad. But as beautiful and fascinating as these creatures are, they do not belong in captivity.

Viola Horvath   February 25th, 2010 3:22 pm ET

Dear Larry, I hope you will do a show on this horrible story, I believe it needs attention and finally people will realize that wild animals cannot be trained to perform on demand. I used to take my children to the circus until I realized that these animals are not here for our amusement but should be respected for what they are, wild and free. The average human being needs to be free and is certainly not predictable at most times, how is it that we can think a wild animal would adapt to domestication then. When we cannot even predict human behavior how is it that we may be so arrogant and obnoxious to believe we can predict a wild animal's behavior. Thank you for the opportunity to express my views, I hope another human being doesn't have to die for our entertainment. Sincerely, Viola Horvath

Stacey   February 25th, 2010 4:09 pm ET

My condolences to the family.....


Orcas are not meant to be in a pool or captured..... They are wild animals and need to stay in the wild... The whales are not called Killer whales for no reason... They may be entertaining to watch, but they do not belong in captivity, nor do they owe us to entertain us.... It's a shame that this had to happen, but maybe it will teach everyone that these animals need to stay where they belong.... All I can think of is Keiko... The whale from Free Willy... Look at what being in captivity did to him.... Then he gets released and dies from pneumonia..... Keiko and every other captive whale should not be taken from it's home..... It's selfish to take them....

Callie   February 25th, 2010 5:10 pm ET

We create our reality through our conscious and unconscious choices....when you assume the responsiblity for the choices you make and the risks that you take, as this trainor did, you must also take responsibility for the outcome, whatever that may be. FREE THE WHALES...

A. Smith, Oregon   February 25th, 2010 6:02 pm ET

AC360 repeatedly deleted all comments and posts that Oregon had previously successfully purchased a captive Orcha Killer Whale, rehabed her for more than one full year and released her back into the Ocean where she lived for 10 full years until her death. Oregons efforts directly resulted in the Hollywood Movie titled 'Free Willy'.

I'm not sure why AC360 didn't want CNN viewers to realize nor even know that it is possible to rehab and successfully release Orcha's back into the wild.

Oregon brought an captive Orcha from a Mexico resort swimming pool. Many Oregonians across the State raised the funds to feed that killer whale while Wille-Kiko the Orcha was rehabbed prior to his release back into the Ocean. Then after more than a full year of rehab and medical treatment, Willie-Kiko the Orcha Killer Whale was released into the Ocean where she thrived for another 10 years before his death.

Some readers might remember the Hollywood movie this effort by a large group of Oregonians inspired, FREE WILLIE was the title.

Yes, it IS POSSIBLE to free Wild Orchas that have been in captivity back into the Ocean to join other Orcha Pods and thrive. It is possible to rehab a Orcha Killer Whale that had tragically been kept far to long in a tiny aquarium and needed substantial rehab prior to being released into the wild.

Kiko died where she wanted to live, in the Ocean, Wild and Free!

Thank-You Kiko for bringing out the very best in Oregonians and for your inspiration for others to do the same.

Thank-You Larry King and the LKL CNN Staff for allowing me to mention and post for CNN viewers that YES IT IS POSSIBLE AND OREGON HAS BEEN SUCCESSFUL IN RELEASING CAPTIVE ORCHAS BACK INTO THE OCEAN.

Callie   February 25th, 2010 6:42 pm ET

Callie   February 25th, 2010 6:47 pm ET

@Oregon, we love you for your compassion! check it out, MJ's 'Free Willy' clip with the Cleveland will love it! Mini commercial comes first...It's all for Love....L.O.V.E

Callie   February 25th, 2010 6:57 pm ET

There is nothing more POWERFUL than FREEDOM!....Wouldn't you agree?

Gerald Jolly   February 25th, 2010 7:57 pm ET

@ A, Smith Oregon.

Great post, and you are absolutely right.

The folks in Oregon have proven that it is possible to release an Orca, as well as many species back to where GOD intended them to be.

I can only hope that the family of the trainer that died will step up and sue Sea World for every cent they have.

As a retired litigation attorney, I would gladly come out of retirement and litigate the case "FREE OF CHARGE"

These self serving greedy "BA!@#$%^&*DS" need to be made accountable for the stess they cause these mamals to have and the safety of their staff.

LAW SUIT suggestion $ 1 billion dollars.

Drive the A-HOLES into bankruptcy, and put an end to this carnage on wild animals.

A. Smith, Oregon   February 25th, 2010 8:45 pm ET

@ Callie, thank you for posting that link to a MJ video with a free-willy theme, it was well worth watching, the musical track and Orca scenes are inspiring.

Judith   February 25th, 2010 10:23 pm ET

Sad for the trainer's family but really sad also for the whale who has no voice.Last year when we had visted Sea World we saw the whale's tails down and we brought that to the attention of a person working there.They said they are ok.When tails are down they are stress out.
All the money they made they could have added a larger area for them to swim and who really knows maybe the whale thought the trainer was in danger when she slip.

A. Smith, Oregon   February 25th, 2010 10:32 pm ET

Orcha's are very intelligent.

I wonder if Tilly realizes that all of his offspring are born into slavery and the sad life of captivity?

For those that don't realize it, Tilly is the sole male breeder for all captive born Orchas in America.

How would intelligent humans feel if all of the children they foster into the world are slaves for the rest of their lives in a tiny cage?

Expat American   February 26th, 2010 11:02 am ET

It's tragic the trainer lost her life. What a terrible loss for her family and all of her loved ones.

By containing animals such as Orcas in small and artificial habitats, their genetic and instinctive programming is irreversibly altered and their behavior can be unpredictable.

That is the risk of systematically reprogramming these massive and highly intelligent animals; and it's very sad the trainer lost her life as a result.

Callie   February 26th, 2010 11:59 am ET

@Orgeon, you are most welcome! As always, MJ combines a powerful emotional song, with equally powerful images to make a strong statement. Images that are not easily forgotten, as MJ is a Master! I believe that it teaches adults, and children especially, that although society has chosen to capture these beautiful mammals, and "train them for 'sport'; the humane, kind, loving, and respectful thing to do, is to allow them to be FREE, where they are most happy, and can thrive in their natural habitat, the ocean. It's all for Love...L.O.V.E! : )

Donald L Allen   February 26th, 2010 1:04 pm ET

Donald L Allen well I think it not OK four the US to set there own rig system to the stander of what they call just and what every they vote in I,M voting out what every OBAMA voting I voted out what every they call Justice is not true it a Lie well it like this if I can not a drop what they do they can not a drop what I,M do yes I,M saying there not doing nutting that has not already been dun it the way I see it and how every it may cernI don't trust the US and I don,t trust the net worth there all the SAM in one but there not #one by a long shot it the same old the same old it a game and they can care less about you put them up there and there gonna make the best of it see you Donald L Allen it project gain skim PS get real no one can set UP a rip off house and get away it I,M #1 what or you

C. D.   February 26th, 2010 1:17 pm ET

Wow, Bob Barker is still alive! I haven't seen him for years. Way to go.

Dodie   February 26th, 2010 10:41 pm ET

@ Callie

Thank you for providing that link. I saw the movie and fell in love with it. I have the DVD. MJ's music was wonderful for that movie. MJ was a gifted person....

Callie   March 1st, 2010 5:27 pm ET

@ Dodie, you are most welcome...Yes, I loved it too! What an impact it made to see that beautirul Orca fly thru the air to freedom...MJ was a Master, so gifted, so talented, and a loving and gentle spirit.. He was always true to himself and left an important message in all of his works; about humanity being one, saving the earth, and most importantly, to love one another...It's all for Love....L.O.V.E

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