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.
An Orlando SeaWorld trainer died in an accident while handling one of the park’s trained killer whales on Feb. 24. According to official reports, 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau was standing in knee-deep water, interacting with the performing whale known as Tilikum, when she was pulled into the water and subsequently drowned. Brancheau was an experienced trainer, and officials are still looking at exactly how the tragic incident unfolded. Witnesses reported that staff could not assist Brancheau immediately because the animal could not be effectively controlled.