Killer Whale kills Sea World trainer during show

Posted by Rachel Leigh - email

ORLANDO, FL (WFLX) - The former head of training at SeaWorld Orlando says a trainer, drowned by a killer whale, broke rules that had been in place for handling the giant animal.

UPDATE, FRI 12 PM: Thad Lacinak said Friday either the rules for working with the 12,000--pound orca have changed since he left the park in 2008 or trainer Dawn Brancheau had not observed them.

Lacinak told The Associated Press he was told by trainers at the scene that Brancheau was lying on a shelf in shallow water next to the killer whale, who was in deep water. He said her ponytail drifted in front of the animal, which grabbed it and dragged her under.

Lacinak said previous protocol would have prohibited a trainer from lying down that close to this specific animal, because of its connection to two past deaths.

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Previously: We are getting new information about the deadly attack at Sea World. An experienced trainer was dragged into the water and killed as she was rubbing the nose of a 12,000 pound killer whale.

We are just finding out the whale that killed the trainer Wednesday may have killed two other people. In fact, the whale was considered so dangerous, no trainers were allowed in the water with him.

But when the whale attacked Wednesday, the trainer was rubbing his nose outside of his tank right after a show wrapped up.

Paramedics were unable to save the veteran trainer, 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau.

Audience members say it was horrible to watch. "She was standing on the rocks right above the viewing area. He jumped, he took off, jumped up, came back, grabbed her and started thrashing her around. Her shoe fell off. He was thrashing her, thrashing her pretty good. It was violent."

The whale that attacked Brancheau is a 12,000 pound ocra named Tillikum. "We've never, in the history of our parks, experienced an incident such as this, and all of our standard operating procedures will come under review."

But there have been other problems with Tilikum. In 1991, he was one of three whales blamed for killing a trainer who fell into a pool with them in British Columbia. He was also involved in a 1999 death at Sea World in Orlando. The body of a homeless man, who sneaked by security and stayed in the park after hours, was found draped over the whale's body. It's still unclear how he died.

Some in the park say an earlier whale show was cancelled when a couple of the mammals started acting strangely. "You could tell one or two of the whales was not listening and, in fact, they started speeding around the tank there, so there was some confusion. They started letting the whales do their own thing, and the trainers got out of the water."

The park was evacuated, and, for now, all shows involving killer whales have been cancelled in all Sea Worlds across the country.

The victim's sister says Dawn loved the whales like her own children and would not have wanted anything done to the whale; however, Sea World, still has not decided what they will do with it after Wednesday's deadly attack.