Thursday, Dec. 09, 2010

Orca Kills Sea World Trainer

What initially seemed like a routine warm-up for a show at Orlando's SeaWorld on February 24, 2010 quickly turned horrific when a six-ton orca named Tillikum grabbed his trainer and dragged her underwater. The trainer, 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau, was standing at the side of the pool when Tilly — as the whale was affectionately called — grabbed her by the ponytail and began thrashing her back and forth underwater. The entire scene — which would prove fatal for Brancheau, who drowned and endured blunt force trauma to her head and torso — took place in front of a shocked audience of tourists and children.

The appalling scene caused a media maelstrom and also (predictably) sparked controversy from animal rights groups. Tilly was known to have a troubled past, having had been involved in the deaths of two people before Brancheau: his trainer at Sea World in Vancouver in 1991 drowned after being tossed between Tilly and two other whales; the following year a homeless man was found naked and dead in Tilly's tank, draped across his back.