Whale Kills SeaWorld Trainer

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Whale Kills SeaWorld Trainer

From CNN.com

"We do not consider this a safe animal for our own trainers to interact with in the water," SeaWorld Vice President Vic Abbey said [1999]. "He has had a history before coming to SeaWorld Orlando."

A killer whale killed a trainer Wednesday afternoon at SeaWorld's Shamu Stadium in Orlando, Florida, a public information officer for the Orange County Sheriff's Office said.

The woman, 40, was in the whale holding area about 2 p.m. when "she apparently slipped or fell into the tank and was fatally injured by one of the whales," Jim Solomons said.

"There's no sense of foul play; right now, this appears to be an accident."

"One of our most experienced animal trainers drowned" in the accident, said Dan Brown, vice president and general manager of SeaWorld Orlando. He said an investigation will be carried out.

"We'll make our findings known in due course," he said. "We've never in the history of our parks experienced an incident like this. All standard operating procedures will be reviewed." He would not elaborate.

"Please bear with us; we've just lost a member of our family," he said.

A patron who did not witness the event said the park refunded her entry fee, although a spokeswoman said the park remained open.

Victoria Biniak told CNN affiliate WKMG that she saw the deadly incident from a viewing area.

"The trainer was explaining different things about the whale, and then the trainer that was down there walked away from the window. 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," Biniak said.

Guest David Dalton told CNN affiliate WFTV, "All of the sudden, out of nowhere, two of the bigger whales just kind of flipped out, going as fast as they could in the water."

Biniak told WKMG that the whale, named Tillikum, or "Telly," does not typically have a trainer in its tank because it is too large.

SeaWorld uses "Shamu" as a stage name for any of the male or female orcas in its shows.

Tillikum is a nearly 30-year-old, 12,300-pound bull orca.

CNN affiliate News 13 reported other incidents involving the animal.

In July 5, 1999, a man hid and then jumped into the tank with Tillikum after the park closed. He was found dead the next morning.

"We do not consider this a safe animal for our own trainers to interact with in the water," Seaworld Vice President Vic Abbey said that year. "He has had a history before coming to SeaWorld Orlando."

On February 21, 1991, 20-year-old Keltie Byrene slipped and fell into the Tillikum whale pool in Canada. She was dragged across the pool and repeatedly submerged. Other trainers attempted to rescue her, but she drowned.