SeaWorld Sadness: An Orca Whale Kills Its Trainer

The more I read about SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was killed yesterday, the sadder I get. In an article about Brancheau written years ago, she told the Orlando Sentinel about going to SeaWorld for the first time when she was 9. “I remember walking down the aisle [of Shamu Stadium] and telling my mom, `This is what I want to do,’ ” Dawn said. “You can’t put yourself in the water unless you trust them and they trust you.”

Horribly ironic, since yesterday, during a lunchtime “Dine with Shamu” event, Telly, a 30-year-old 12,000-pound whale, pulled Brancheau under water. “[She] was laying on the platform, massaging the whale, petting it. All of a sudden, it latched on and took her under,” said a witness. “He came up one time out of the water with her in his mouth. That was the last we saw of her because they were running us out of there.” Alarms went off as an emergency crew tried to rescue Dawn. Brancheau had more than 16 years experience working with killer whales, and experts think Telly probably didn’t mean to hurt her. He might have even been playing with her. But this isn’t the first time Telly has been involved in a death. In 1991, Telly was one of three whales who killed a trainer in Canada. Then, in 1999, a SeaWorld visitor went past security and either jumped or was pulled into the tank. Technically, he died of hypothermia, but Telly had bitten him.

Very sad that a talented trainer is dead, and that many people are traumatized by seeing it happen. Really, killer whales look so sweet.