Autopsy: SeaWorld trainer likely died from drowning, trauma - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Autopsy: SeaWorld trainer likely died from drowning, trauma

ORLANDO, Fla. (WKOW) -- SeaWorld officials in Orlando say trainers had to coax the aggressive whale into a smaller pool and even use a platform to lift the whale out of the water before they could free a colleague from the killer whale's jaws.

A medical examiner says 40-year-old trainer Dawn Brancheau probably died from multiple traumatic injuries and drowning.

In a news release from the county sheriff's office, sheriff's officials say the SeaWorld trainer's co-workers couldn't immediately help her, because the killer whale was so aggressive after it grabbed her by her ponytail and pulled her into the water.

Sheriff's officials say an investigation is continuing, but there are no signs of foul play. They say all evidence indicates it was a tragic accident.


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Several people who knew a trainer killed at SeaWorld Orlando say she treated killer whales like her children and wouldn't want anything to happen to the one that dragged her into a pool and thrashed her around.


Trainer Dawn Brancheau's boss at SeaWorld, Chuck Tompkins, even co-authored a book published last year about the lessons parents can learn from trainers who work with killer whales.

Brancheau's sister, Diane Gross, says that like children, the whales had personalities, and good days and bad days.

SeaWorld is apparently comfortable enough with at least some whales to allow them to get close to kids. A YouTube video shows a young girl picked from the audience feeding a whale a fish and petting it at the San Diego park last year.


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- A SeaWorld official is confirming that a whale that killed a trainer at the park pulled the woman into the water.

Chuck Tompkins, head of animal training at all SeaWorld parks, said Trainer Dawn Brancheau was rubbing the whale named Tilikum after a noontime show Wednesday when the whale grabbed her and pulled her in.

The sheriff's office earlier said that Brancheau had slipped or fallen in.

Tompkins said Brancheau had more experience with Tilikum than most of the park's other 28 trainers, only about a dozen of whom worked with him.

The SeaWorld official said that because of Tilikum's size and involvement in two previous deaths, trainers were not supposed to get into the water with him.


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- A former employee of a Canadian aquarium where a whale blamed for killing a Florida trainer was involved in another trainer's death says he's surprised it happened again.

Steve Huxter was head of Sealand of the Pacific's animal care and training department near Victoria, British Columbia, when part-time orca trainer Keltie Byrne fell into the whale pool after a 1991 show. She died after being dragged around by three whales including one named Tilikum.

Huxter says he's surprised to hear Tilikum is blamed for killing another trainer Wednesday at SeaWorld in Orlando. He says Tilikum was a well-behaved, balanced animal.

He says there's no chance in the world Tilikum will be put down.


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- The whale that killed Florida SeaWorld trainer involved in 2 other deaths, including Canada trainers.


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- An 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.

Park president Dan Brown would say only that the trainer killed was one of the park's most experienced. She was killed when she slipped or fell into the whale's tank Wednesday afternoon.


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Officials in Florida say a veteran 40-year-old trainer at SeaWorld was killed by a 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.

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.

Brown says SeaWorld has never experienced an incident like this.


ORLANDO, Fla. (WKOW) -- Sources at SeaWorld Orlando told our ABC affiliate in Orlando that a female trainer was killed Wednesday afternoon by a whale that had been at the park since 1992. The sheriff's office also confirmed that an employee was killed.

"Orange County Sheriff's Office deputies responded this afternoon to SeaWorld along with Orange County Fire Rescue units in response to a call for service regarding an employee, in the Killer Whale tank, which had been injured/attacked," the sheriff's office wrote in a release Wednesday afternoon.

Orange County homicide detectives are on the scene.

Eyewitnesses told reporters that a trainer was pulled into the Shamu Stadium tank and killed after 2:00pm Eastern time.

There are a total of eight whales in Shamu Stadium. According to a source at SeaWorld, the whale involved in the attack is named Trillium.

Sheriff's deputies have secured the scene, and Homicide Detectives have been requested to respond and conduct a death investigation follow-up, along with our Forensics Unit.

The employee's name is being held until next of kin is notified.


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