Trainer Killed at SeaWorld's Shamu Stadium After Whale Attack

From Fox News:

A killer whale killed a SeaWorld Orlando trainer who slipped or fell in its tank Wednesday, drowning her in front of a horrified audience.

Dan Brown, president of the Orlando park, said the trainer was one of the park’s most experienced.

He would not answer questions about whether it happened during a performance, but an audience member said a show was just starting.

The whale “took off really fast in the tank, and then he came back, shot up in the air, grabbed the trainer by the waist and started thrashing around, and one of her shoes flew off,” Victoria Biniak told WKMG-TV.

Jim Solomons of the Orlando County Sheriff’s Office, said the trainer slipped or fell into the whale’s tank, which seemed to contradict Biniak’s description.

“This appears to be an accidental death, a tragic death,” said Solomons.

Neither Brown nor Solomons would release the trainer’s name. The park is investigating, and Mike Wald, a spokesman for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration office in Atlanta, said his agency has dispatched an investigator from Tampa.

The guests were asked to leave and the park was closed.

This is not the first deadly incident for the whale, named Tilikum, or Telly for short, reported.

The male whale had an issue at Sealand in British Colombia in 1991, also resutling in a trainer’s death.

The news organization didn’t say what exactly the incident was, but it caused the company to sell him to SeaWorld in 1992 where he could be in a bigger tank.

In 1999 a homeless man sneaked into Tilikum’s tank and was later found dead with a bite mark, reported.

A former SeaWorld contractor told the in Florida that the whale is usually kept isolated from the other whales and trainers are not allowed to be in the water with him because he is violent.

Nancy Black, a killer whale expert, told WKMG-TV the whale could have just been playing.

“They are very intelligent creatures. Tehy have emotions and feelings. Maybe it was unhappy in the situation, maybe it was bored,” Black told the station.

There have been several previous attacks on whale trainers at SeaWorld parks.

In November 2006, trainer Kenneth Peters, 39, was bitten and held underwater several times by a 7,000-pound killer whale during a show at SeaWorld’s San Diego park.

He escaped with a broken foot. The 17-foot-long orca who attacked him was the dominant female of SeaWorld San Diego’s seven killer whales. She had attacked Peters two other times, in 1993 and 1999.

In 2004, another whale at the company’s San Antonio park tried to hit one of the trainers and attempted to bite him. He also escaped.

In December, a whale drowned a trainer at a Spanish zoo.

At the Orlando SeaWorld, the body of a naked man was found scratched, bruised and draped over a 5-ton orca named Tilikum in July 1999. Daniel Dukes, 27, reportedly made his way past security at SeaWorld, remaining in the park after it had closed. Wearing only his underwear, Dukes either jumped, fell or was pulled into the frigid water of Tilikum’s huge tank.

An autopsy ruled that he died of hypothermia in the 50-degree water. But they also said it appeared Tilikum bit the man and tore off his swimming trunks, likely believing he was a toy to play with.

Dukes’ parents filed a lawsuit against the park later that year but ended up withdrawing it.

This whale has a history of killing people, so why do they continue to keep him in their program? :ehh:

In the words of the immortal Oscar Wilde, “One must have a heart of stone NOT to laugh at this.”


Time to send him off to the cannery. :slight_smile:


God Bless.

I am so confused by the comment that it would be difficult not to laugh at this story! There isn’t anything humorous in the entire shocking story.

I have seen this show several times ovver the years with my children and it would have been horrifying to have been there with my kids when this happened. I am horrified and I wasn’t there!

Eternal rest grant unto her, oh Lord, and let the perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace, Amen.

It absolutely horrible that this woman died, tragic and sad for all involved.

That being said, perhaps we shouldn’t be treating these animals as though they were show dogs. A killer whale belongs in the ocean, not in some fetid, cramped pool so tourists can gawk.

Oscar Wilde was one of those writers that is sometimes hard to understand. I meant no offense to anyone, and I apologize for the confusion.

I do think it’s really tragic.

No…let the animal free in the wild.


Interestingly enough, we watched a show on these whales recently. From what I learned isolating that whale was the wrong thing to do. Killer whales travel in families and are very social animals. I can’t begin to imagine how much stress they created in him by separating him from the rest.

I agree with another poster, those whales need to be set free. These animals are not domesticated, they are wild and will act on those instincts.


We restrain these animals and confine them in terrible small habitats and force them to go through numerous stunts and we act surprised when one of them “goes crazy”?

Give me a freaking break…

and those whom are “surprised” or shocked…get a clue.

:slight_smile: Good suggestion as well! I believe, however, that won’t happen in this case especially when a particular whale has a history of attacking (and killing) trainers.

God Bless you

i just typed a post and it said it was done, but evidently didn’t get posted, so i will try again. :confused:

this evening i was watching a news show that said this killer whale will not be destroyed.
he will be kept in a separate compound and not perform anymore and the trainers will use extreme caution when feeding the whale, etc.

i stopped supporting circuses long ago because i felt sorry for the animals. i have visited seaworld in san diego a couple of times and i did enjoy the killer whale shows, but what happened today only shows that these whales snap for whatever reason and are very dangerous to have in captivity. is it fair to make them perform day after day and do more than one show a day? maybe they feel overworked.

the trainer obviously loved working with these whales and it is a tragedy that she had to die this way. they said she knew the risks, but how said that she loved these whales and one of them turned against her.

my prayers go to the family and friends of the trainer who was killed today and i also want to pray for the killer whale. there will be an investigation and a report will be made public.
witnesses reported that the whales at the 12:30 show appeared agitated. so there was something already bothering them.

I think this is what happens when you attempt to keep a intelligent and social animal in a pool. Is it sad? Yes I feel horrible that the trainer died like that. Am I surprized? No.

This is very lamentable. perhaps it’s time to review the use of these animals for entertainment. The price of one life is not worth it in my opinion.

they call them “killer” whales for a reason - they eat sea lions in the wild and people look sort of sea-lion sized…

I don’t mean to be dis-compassionate…and may God please bless this woman’s soul…I don’t know how to do justice to this horrible tragedy in a little computer post…

I remember reading an account by Jacques Cousteau about some killer whales he was watching…he said they speed-ed up up all of a sudden then caught a shark and bit the shark in half…don’t know for sure how true this is, but they are dangerous animals, however intelligent they also are…

Maybe it’s time to find a killer-whale whisperer to undo the damage human captivity has done to this animal…or an accepting pod of free roaming killer whales…

amen to that! :thumbsup:

it is one thing to take a wild animal into captivity that has been injured, but enslaving them for our entertainment is an incredibly selfish and nasty act. my prayers are with that poor woman’s soul and her family, but it’s time to free willy. and please don’t get me started on the torture camp that is otherwise called, the circus.

i don’t understand how his past, has anything to do with letting him go. it’s not like he’s going to bump into humans out in the middle of the ocean or start ramming boats.

if they do free him, the only concern i can see is whether he can hunt for himself to survive. after killing three people though, i think it’s fair to say he still knows how.


Killer whales do eat sharks. The show we watched showed that this particular pod flipped the shark upside down. This apparently puts the shark in a comatose state. The whales apparently have a very diverse diet. They adapt their diet to their environment. We saw them eat sea lions, sharks, dolphins, whales, and stingrays.

I think a tragedy (clearly far lesser than the human deaths this whale has caused) is the fact that, if they do release the whale-it probably won’t last that long in the wild.

Killer whales are smart animals. i saw a video of killer whale killing a great white shark couple of years ago. Brute force couldn’t match great brain power. The whale ripped the shark into piece.

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