SeaWorld trainers will keep working with whale that killed trainer
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Trainers will continue to work with a killer whale that grabbed one of their colleagues and dragged her underwater, killing her, but SeaWorld said Thursday it is reviewing its procedures.
People lined up to get into the Orlando park a day after the whale named Tilikum killed veteran trainer Dawn Brancheau as a horrified audience watched. Tilikum had been involved in two previous deaths, including a Canadian trainer dragged under water by him and two others whales in 1991.
Killer whale shows are suspended indefinitely in Orlando and at the park’s San Diego location.
“Many people are asking about the future care of Tilikum, the whale involved in the incident,” the blog post said. “ We have every intention of continuing to interact with this animal, though the procedures for working with him will change.”
Chuck Tompkins, who is in charge of training at all SeaWorld parks, said Thursday that Tilikum will not be isolated from Orlando location’s seven other whales. He fathered some of them and will continue to mate with others.
“ We want him to continue to be part of that social group,” he said.
Trainers will review safety procedures and change them as needed, but Tompkins says he doesn’t expect much about the killer whale shows to change.
Brancheau, 40, was rubbing Tilikum from a poolside platform when the 12,000-pound creature reached up, grabbed her long braid in its mouth and dragged her underwater.
The Orange County Sheriff ’s Office said Thursday that trainers trying to help her could not get into the water because Tilikum was so aggressive. They had to coax him into a smaller pool and raise him out of the water on a platform before they could free her.
She likely died from multiple traumatic injuries and drowning, the medical examiner’s office said.
Horrified visitors who had stuck around after a noontime show watched Tilikum charge through the pool with Brancheau in his jaws.
Tompkins said the whale was lying in front of Brancheau when her braid swung in front of him and he apparently grabbed onto it.
“ We like to think we know 99.9 per cent of the time what an animal is doing,” he told The Associated Press, Thursday. “But this is one of those times we just don’t know.”
Kelly Vickery, 24, of Tallahassee was at the noon show Wednesday and said the whales seemed to be acting odd, swimming around the tank rapidly. Trainers said the whales “were having an off day, that they were being ornery,” she said.
Tompkins disputed that, saying nothing seemed abnormal with any of the whales.
Chuck Tompkins, chief animal trainer for SeaWorld, answers questions Thursday about the death of a trainer at the theme park in Orlando, Fla., Thursday.