Orlando: Killer whale kills SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau (video, pictures)
According to local reports and U.S. cable news channels, a trainer was killed by a killer whale inside Shamu Stadium at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida.
According to witnesses (see Sky News video below where witness Eric Nichols tells what he has seen), the attack happened in front of a live audience right after the female trainer, named Dawn Brancheau (see Orlando Sentinel's file photo), age of 40, explained to the audience what they were going to see.
"The trainer was explaining different things about the whale and then the trainer that was down there walked away from the window and then the whale took off really fast in the tank and he came back, shot up in the air, grabbed the trainer by the waist and started thrashing her around, another witness Victoria Biniak said.
Here is an AP report from another witness, Eldon Skaggs, 72, who said Brancheau was on a platform with the whale and was massaging it. He said the interaction appeared leisurely and informal. Then, Skaggs said, the whale "pulled her under and started swimming around with her." Skaggs said an alarm sounded and staff rushed the audience out of the stadium as workers scrambled around with nets. Skaggs said he heard that during an earlier show the whale was not responding to directions. Others who attended the earlier show said the whale was behaving like an ornery child. The couple left and didn't find out until later that the trainer had died.
Watch two CNN videos with a report of a different witness (1) and footage from the Larry King Show, where Brancheau is shown in the CNN 2008 interview (2):
The 11,000-pound, 22-foot-long whale is named Tilikum (Telly), 30-years-old, and has been involved in two other fatal attacks in the past.
Officials in Orlando said there was no foul play concerning a fatal incident at Sea World that killed Brancheau (see CBS video below).
"One of our most experienced animal trainers drowned in an incident with one of our killer whales this afternoon," said Dan Brown, general manager at the Orlando entertainment park. "This is an extraordinarily difficult time for the SeaWorld parks."
A police spokesman said the trainer slipped or fell into the tank and was then "fatally attacked" by the whale.
"This appears to be an accidental death, it's a tragic death."
Tilikum, whose name means "friend" in the Chinook Indian language, is among the killer whales, dolphins and seals whose shows have made SeaWorld so popular.
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Watch amateur home video captures Tilikum killing trainer Dawn Brancheau (source: liveleak.com/ vocediitalia.it)
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Watch also below the AssociatedPress video (February 24, 2010): A marine conservationist with the American Museum of Natural History says killer whales are intelligent creatures that don't do things accidentally. He says he believes the whale's actions at SeaWorld Orlando were intentional.