A killer whale named Tilikum that was linked to two other deaths has recently bit and killed a trainer in front of a live audience waiting for him to splash water at the Orlando Seaworld Wednesday.
The woman was identified as 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau who wanted to work with SeaWorld since she was 9. Brancheau who spent the past 10 years with killer whales is one of SeaWorld Orlando’s leading trainers.
Witnesses say that Brancheau was briefing them of what the seemingly agitated whale will do when Tilikum suddenly shot up in the air and grabbed Brancheau by her torso. She was then yanked violently until she drowned.
The 5-ton bull Orca was captured in Iceland in 1983 when he was approximately two years old. His name ironically means “friend” in Chinook Jargon. Tilikum sired at least 10 living killer whales.
Tilikum was earlier connected to two other deaths including that of a trainer at Sealand of the Pacific near Victoria, British Columbia. Reports say that 21-year-old Keltie Byrne slipped and fell on the Orca’s tank where Tilikum and two other female whales were kept. It is said that they toyed with Byrne until she drowned.
Another incident which happened at SeaWorld Orlando involves a 27-year-old man who was found naked and draped over Tilikum. Daniel Dukes was said to have stayed after the park closed and got into the restricted area where Tilikum’s tank was located. It is still unclear whether the whale grabbed him like Brancheau or he fell like Byrne.
Killer whales are naturally playful and aggressive. Even trainers shouldn’t be too complacent and let their guards down when they are with these giant marine mammals. Brancheau who had 10 years of training apparently was still not safe from Tilikum.
One thing is for sure, readers and followers of this story will think twice before getting near a killer whale again.