SeaWorld killer whale shows to resume Saturday
SeaWorld will resume killer whale shows at all its parks, including in San Diego, this weekend but trainers won’t be allowed to enter the water pending the outcome of an investigation into the death of a trainer killed by an orca at SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla., park officials said Friday.
At a news conference this morning in Orlando, Jim Atchison, chief executive officer of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, declined to speculate when trainers would be allowed back in the water or how long the investigation will take.
“It’s hard to tell at this point,” he told reporters. “We are being very thorough in our analysis. We have invited in others in the industry to participate in this. So we will take as long as it takes to get to the best conclusions we can possibly make to change any protocols that are necessary to change.”
SeaWorld San Diego’s killer whale shows were canceled for a third consecutive day Friday following the death of 40-year-old trainer Dawn Brancheau in Orlando.
Dan Brown, general manager of SeaWorld Orlando, characterized Wednesday’s death as a “drowning.”
Witnesses told Orlando-area television stations that Brancheau had just introduced the 12,000-pound whale when it came out of the water and grabbed her, apparently by her pony tail.
The whale, Tilikum, has been in Orlando since 1992 and was involved in the July 1999 death of a man who sneaked into the park after closing and got into the 50-degree water with the orca. An autopsy listed hypothermia as the cause of his death.
Nineteen years ago, Tilikum was one of three orcas blamed for killing a trainer who fell into their pool in British Columbia. Because of Tilikum’s past, trainers were not supposed to get into the water with the whale which reportedly was sold to be used only for breeding.
In 2006, Ken Peters, a trainer at SeaWorld San Diego, was attacked by a killer whale during a show, suffering injuries when an orca named Kasatka grabbed his foot and twice took him to the bottom of a 36-foot-deep tank.
Animal rights activists have long argued that killer whales should not be kept by theme parks, away from their natural environment, in part because they are naturally aggressive.