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Trainer Dawn Brancheau killed at Sea World by Killer Whale

Updated on December 2, 2014

Trainer Dawn Brancheau and Tilikum The Killer Whale

On Feb. 24, 2010 Dawn Brancheau a Sea World Trainer was killed by a Killer Whale named Tilikum. Although still fully unclear exactly what happened, thousands of people have voiced their feelings and views on what they think happened and how the whale should be handled. Sea World has announced that they will keep the whale, animal rights groups say the Killer whale needs to be set free, others feel the animal should be put down, and others say it is not the whales fault. What do you think? Many people want to see the video of the attack. Why? Do you want to see it? I am going to hit on some of these topics and try to answer them the best I can with my views. I will show you some of the videos of Dawn and Tilikum, the latest news, and then I would like to get your views on the matter.

History of Tilikum

Tilikum is a 12,000 pound bull killer whale who lives at Sea World in Orlando, Flordia. He is used for breeding purposes and also performs in shows. Sea World forbids the trainers to swim with him because of his massive size and questionable history.

Tilikum was captured in the wild near Iceland in Nov. 1983 around 2 years of age. Shortly after his capture he was sent to Sealand of the Pacific public aquarium in Canda. It has been reported that he was held in a very small tank and was bullied by 2 other female Killer Whales. In 1991 young trainer Keltie Byrne had slipped and fell in the tank when the 3 whales reportedly started throwing her around and dragging her underwater until ultimately she drowned. In Jan. 1992 he was sold to Sea World after Sealand of the park closed due to the incident. In July 1999 security at Sea World found a man Daniel Dukes draped over Tilikum's back dead. The man reportedly drowned of hypothermia but did have a bit mark on him and was declothed by Tilikum. It is unclear if the man had jumped, fell, or if Tilikum pulled the young man in the tank. They could not tell if the bite marks were before or after death.

And now a 3rd human death surrounding Tilikum has happened with his trainer of 16 years Dawn Brancheau. It happened after a show while Brancheau was rewarding Tilikum for a good performance. It has been stated earlier that he pulled her in by the hips, but now said he grabbed her ponytail and pulled her in. An investigation is underway and they are trying to determine what caused this. It has been said it could be he was playing, that he was aggitated due to high hormones, and recently that Brancheau possibly broke protocal. It may be some time before we know if ever what caused this incident.

Public Questions and Views

At this moment the public is searching for videos related to the death of Dawn Brancheau. But why do people want to see such a horrific event? Are these people sick and twisted? I don't think it is that so much as people want to see what really happened. Did Tilikum attack her? Was he trying to play with her? How did he grab her? I think most want to see it to decide for themselves if it was an outright attack or an accident.

Due to this tragedy many animal rights groups say this proves that these animals need to be set free. But would Tilikum be able to survive in the wild. He was taken a very young age and it is unclear if he had devolped the skills to hunt and basically survive.

Others think the whale should be put down. If a pitbull attacks or kills a human it is put down so what is the difference? That is a good question and good point. But I am sure a dog killing someone is much more common than a killer whale. And a dog is mobile and can still come in contact with many people. Tilikum only has contact with a select few trainers.

And still some say it is not Tilikums fault. He did not ask to be put in a tank to perform trick for people and be studied. While that last statement is true it has been reported that Tilikum was happy and adjusted very well at Sea World. I don't know maybe Tilikum has learned to talk to make a statement like that. I am sorry I do not mean to make light of the situation but it is hard to believe someone knows how the whale felt.

My view on the whole thing. It was a very sad accident. Dawn Brancheau loved these animals and knew the risk of working with them. She chose everyday to go to work, swim with them, and work with Tilikum knowing his questionable past. Although these whales are very intelligent I do not believe that he intentionally killed her if he was trying to play if in fact that is what happened. He was doing what all Killer Whales do when playing. Now if in fact it is ever found that this was a outright attack Sea World will have do something different with Tilikam. I understand that he is an essential part of the breeding program at Sea World but is it worth the risk of more human lives to keep him? At least change it so he is strictly used for breeding. Sea World without a doubt is the best at saving these animals and taking care of them, people love to watch these animals perform. With those factors in mind, Sea World is not going to stop the perfomances because that is partly how they pay for helping and taking care of sick or injured animals they aquire. But also because people love the shows. But I do agree how they handle and interact with Tilikam may have to be changed so there are no more accidents.

Family Asks Judge to Seal Video

Trainer killed at SeaWorld ask a judge to seal the tape of the killer whale killing her.

The Autopsy Report

Brancheau, 40, was interacting with a 12,000-pound orca named Tilikum in knee-deep water Feb. 24 when the killer whale grabbed her by her ponytail and wouldn't let go. A crowd was present when the orca attacked Bracheau.

The six-page autopsy report shows the violence with which Tilikum treated the veteran trainer after she was pulled in the water.

The orca removed part of Brancheau's scalp and detached her left arm. She also suffered multiple fractures, including to her back, ribs, legs, arms and face. Her spinal cord also was injured, the report said. Her body was covered in cuts and bruises.

The medical examiner found fluid in Brancheau's lungs, showing that she drowned. A toxicology report, which is routinely performed on autopsies, found no drugs in Brancheau.

Immediately after the attack witnesses told the Orlando Sentinel the killer whale shook and tossed the trainer while swimming with her in the tank.

The Sheriff's Office said its investigation into the accident is on-going and did not release additional information about the attack.

The lawyer representing Brancheau's family did not return a request for comment.

SeaWorld Orlando spokeswoman Becca Bides said the park had no comment on the autopsy but that the company is hoping the media gives Brancheau's family members the "respect and humanity they deserve."

Brancheau's family has filed a motion in Orange County Circuit Court to keep Sheriff's Office photographs and SeaWorld's on-site video of the accident from becoming public.

A judge permitted the family, SeaWorld and various media organization, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Lakeland Ledger, to negotiate a possible agreement about the availability of the video and photos. On Wednesday, the Associated Press joined the process.

Two of the theme park's video cameras captured parts of the killer whale attack. SeaWorld has argued in court that the video should not become public because it is private and that it owns the video.

Tilikum and Dawn Brancheau

Video collection of both Tilikum the Killer Whale and Dawn Brancheau

Tell us your views on this current situation. Please don't be rude and attack others for what they think.

Reader Feedback - What do you think?

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    • PhoenixV profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      I hear about these cases and it makes me think they should just get rid of these animal parks and even get rid of zoos. I think it's sad for everyone and especially for the animals.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I feel sorry for the whales and take a great interest in them. But I see SO much empathy for the "intelligent' whale, and not so much for the victim. (times have definitely changed!) Turn it loose! If he survives, (which I think he WOULD!), great, if not, he can't kill anymore ppl! That's people. like you and me! Not consumers! PPL. PPL car MORE for animals than ppl. Since they Must be displayed, and make money, how then can ppl feel so much sorrow for them? That';s what ppl WANT! to pay and see them! then, if they KILL, a PERSON, they need releasing. That's all. ty

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love killer whales, but the fact that they are beautiful does not mean that they are not dangerous because in fact training whales could be very dangerous. It is a shame that there is nothing like viagra online to relax whales.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      @OnlyFunStuff LM: Thank you for your reply. I have to agree that it is a bath tub for them.

    • OnlyFunStuff LM profile image

      OnlyFunStuff LM 

      8 years ago

      Interesting lens, I think that not only Tilikum but all captive Orca's should be set free. Evan in the largest man made pool it's like living in a bathtub for them. This cruel treatment has to stop.


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