SeaWorld in better times: An orca performs before a SeaWorld audience in Orlando in this photo from 2005.
Lest it be forgotten, Shamu and his orca pals aren’t called killer whales for nothing. Although watching humans gambol with orcas and other sea mammals has become a tourist staple at water parks around the country, that brand of family entertainment doesn’t sit well with some animal rights groups, and it can be deadly, as an incident Wednesday at SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla., tragically illustrated. According to reports, a SeaWorld trainer was killed by Telly, a giant male orca, as she was at work teaching visitors about killer whales, but details differ about how she ended up in the tank with Telly. —KA
The Orlando Sentinel:
The trainer was in a whale holding area when she apparently slipped or fell into the tank drowned, authorities said.
“One of our most experienced animal trainers drowned,” SeaWorld General Manager Dan Brown said, reading from a prepared statement during a brief news conference this afternoon. He did not provide further details but pledged a complete review of the park’s safety procedures.
Authorities have not yet released the identity of the trainer. A spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said she was about 40 years old.
Park guest Victoria Biniak told Local 6 that the trainer was a veteran of SeaWorld and had just finished explaining to the audience what they would see during the performance.
At that point, Biniak said, the whale came up from the water and grabbed the woman.
“He was thrashing her around pretty good. It was violent,’ ” Biniak told Local 6.
The whale “took off really fast in the tank, and then he came back, shot up in the air, grabbed the trainer by the waist and started thrashing around, and one of her shoes flew off.”