An Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) official recently told reporters that SeaWorld Orlando’s policy of allowing trainers to determine whether or not a killer whale’s behavior poses a threat to handlers was a factor in the death of a trainer last year. A recent hearing on the matter revealed that the Orlando theme park has been issued three safety citations in connection with the accident involving a killer whale that pulled a trainer under water, causing her to drown. SeaWorld Orlando fired back, saying the citations and attendant fines are unfounded and that the drowning death was a tragic accident.
A SeaWorld attorney told the judge hearing the case that the facility is one of the premier facilities in the country for marine mammal research and has a history of rescuing these animals. Administrative Law Judge Ken Welsch responded to the attorney, saying that he was not hearing the case to determine whether or not killer whales should be held in captivity or if SeaWorld is responsible for the trainer’s death. He said that it was his job to determine if the three citations OSHA issued to the facility had merit. On February 24, 2010, a killer whale named Tilikum grabbed the trainer by her hair and dragged her underwater, drowning the trainer.
In presenting its case, OSHA noted that this killer whale had also been involved in a fatal accident in 1991, killing a trainer at a marine park in British Columbia. The first OSHA citation claimed that SeaWorld exposed its workers to the chance of being struck and drowned during interactions with the large marine mammals. They recommended the use of barriers between the animals and their trainers to prevent similar accidents. OSHA issued the second citation which faulted SeaWorld for failing to install a stairway railing system where the killer whale presentations occur, citing the dangers of a section of the stage that had a 10-foot drop. The third citation involved SeaWorld’s failure to install weatherproof enclosures on electrical receptacles in the killer whale presentation area.
When we discuss Orlando amusement park accidents on this blog, we usually talk about accidents involving roller coasters and other thrill rides. However, these accidents also include interactions with live animals. If a judge or jury determines that SeaWorld Orlando was negligent, they can be held liable for damages the same way that amusement parks are for failing to ensure that their rides are safe. If you or someone in your immediate family is injured at an Orlando-area amusement park and you want to speak with an Orlando personal injury attorney, call James O. Cunningham today at 888-425-2004 or 407-425-2000. Mr. Cunningham is a strong advocate for injured peoples’ rights and works hard to help them receive the fair and just compensation they deserve. Call today to schedule your free consultation.
James O. Cunningham
Since 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.
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