SeaWorld whale now linked to 3 deaths

Stock Photo: Killer Whale
Stock Photo: Killer Whale

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - A whale that killed an Orlando SeaWorld employee Wednesday is linked to a total of three deaths according to the Associated Press. The whale in question, named Tilikum, was one of three whales blamed for killing a trainer in 1991 at Sealand of the Pacific in Victoria, British Columbia.

A man's body was also found draped over Tilikum at Orlando SeaWorld in July 1999. Daniel Dukes reportedly made his way past security at SeaWorld and either jumped, fell or was pulled into the frigid water of Tilikum's huge tank. An autopsy ruled that he died of hypothermia, but authorities said it appeared Tilikum bit the man and tore off his swimming trunks.

Officials in Florida say a veteran 40-year-old trainer at SeaWorld was killed by the whale when she slipped and fell in its tank. SeaWorld Orlando President Dan Brown says officials are investigating but it appears to be an accident. He says the trainer was one of the park's most experienced.

Another official says 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau is the trainer killed by a whale at SeaWorld in Orlando. The law enforcement official with knowledge of the incident spoke on condition of anonymity because he had not been cleared to officially release her identity.

According to a 2006 Orlando Sentinel profile, Brancheau had worked her way into a leadership role at Shamu Stadium after spending more than a decade working with killer whales.

She was inspired by a trip to SeaWorld when she was 9.

Spectator Victoria Biniak told WKMG-TV that the trainer had just finished explaining to the audience a show they were about to see Wednesday when the whale appeared to grab the trainer and thrash her around.

Orange County Fire Rescue spokesman John Mulhall says paramedics were called Wednesday afternoon to the Shamu Stadium at the theme park where they found the worker, whom they could not revive.

Biniak told the station the whale suddenly came up from the water, grabbed the trainer around the waist and "thrashed her all around" to the point the trainer's shoe fell off.

The guests were evacuated and the park was closed.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)