Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Details released of killer whale attack on trainer in Orlando Seaworld

One of the killer whales at Seaworld Orlando
One of the killer whales at Seaworld Orlando
Mourners after funeral services for SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, Monday, March 1, 2010, in Chicago.
Dawn Branchea pictured at SeaWorld Adventure Park
Dawn Brancheau, a whale trainer at SeaWorld Adventure Park, poses for a family Christmas photo with her dog. Brancheau was killed in an accident with a killer whale at the SeaWorld Shamu Stadium
Mourners weap after funeral services for SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, Monday, March 1, 2010, in Chicago.
A SeaWorld trainer tosses a fish to a killer whale during the first show after a trainer was killed by an orca at the theme park
Dawn Branchea pictured at SeaWorld Adventure Park
Dawn Brancheau with a killer whale at SeaWorld. Brancheau was killed in an accident with a killer whale at the SeaWorld Shamu Stadium Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 24, 2010.
SeaWorld trainers and killer whales wave to the audience Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010, during the first show after the death of a trainer at the theme park in Orlando
Sea World general manager Dan Brown
Three killer whales swim in tanks at the SeaWorld park in Orlando, Fla. on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010.
Guests exit the park at the end of the day at SeaWorld February 24, 2010 in Orlando, Florida.
Three killer whales swim in tanks at the SeaWorld park in Orlando, Fla. on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010.
The sign at the entrance to SeaWorld February 24, 2010 in Orlando, Florida.
Killer whale

The killer whale that dragged its trainer to her death eluded SeaWorld staff trying frantically to trap it with nets during the attack, according to witness statements.

After minutes of frenzied work to save Dawn Brancheau, 40, the whale was finally corralled, but still refused to unclench its teeth and let go of her body, according to investigative reports released by Florida's Orange County Sheriff's Office.

Investigators said Ms Brancheau died from multiple traumatic injuries and drowning.

"The whale would not let us have her," another trainer, Jodie Ann Tintle, told investigators after the attack on Wednesday.

In the investigative reports, Ms Brancheau's co-workers described the swiftness of the attack and the furious response that came after alarms sounded around the pool. Employees who were at other pools, behind computers or emptying coolers of fish rushed to the scene.

The reports include the first extensive accounts from employees who witnessed the attacks at the park in Orlando.

Jan Topoleski, who monitors trainers' safety during shows, said he saw Ms Brancheau lying on the deck face-to-face with the 22ft-long, 12,000lb whale and communicating with him just before the attack. He said the whale, named Tilikum, bit Ms Brancheau's hair and pulled her into the pool within about two seconds. Mr Topoleski sounded an alarm and grabbed safety equipment.

It was not clear how long it took workers to finally trap the whale in a pool with the lift, which they used to remove it from the water. One witness said it seemed like 10 minutes, but another said it could have been as long as 30 minutes.

Numerous employees said the whale's jaw had to be pried open to remove Ms Brancheau. But her hand remained in the clench of Tilikum and they had to pry the whales's mouth open again.

When they finally got Ms Brancheau free, her body was placed on the deck and her wetsuit cut off. Paramedics pronounced her dead, and her body was covered.

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