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SeaWorld worker Dawn Brancheau killed by Tilly the killer whale

A killer whale has dragged a 40-year-old female trainer at SeaWorld Orlando to her death during a public performance.

Park visitor Victoria Biniak told WKMG-TV that the trainer had just finished explaining to the audience the show they were about to see.

Biniak said the whale, called Tilikum or Tilly, suddenly came up from the water, grabbed Dawn Brancheau around the waist and "thrashed her all around" to the point the trainer's shoe fell off.

Orange County Fire Rescue spokesman John Mulhall says paramedics were called to the Shamu Stadium at the theme park where they found a worker who could not be revived.

Visitors were evacuated from the park, which was then closed.

Dan Brown, president of SeaWorld Orlando, said the victim was one of the park's most experienced trainers.

Tilly the whale was reportedly involved in several incidents in the past. One involved the death of another trainer in 1991 while Tilly was performing in Canada.

After the whale was sold to SeaWorld Orlando it was involved in another death when authorities discovered the body of a naked man lying across his back in 1999.

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From Belfast Telegraph