New Photos of Killer Whale involved in Trainer Death at SeaWorld
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released new photos of Tilikum, the killer whale involved in the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in February, 2010 at SeaWorld of Florida.
Through the Freedom of Information Act, The Orca Project has acquired 71 photos on file from OSHA’s investigation. Two of these photos were taken by a guest at the underwater viewing area during the moments as Tilikum pulled Mrs. Brancheau into the water.
Upon review and examination by former SeaWorld trainers, it is increasingly clear that Dawn was killed after being “barrel-rolled” by Tilikum after he initially grasped her arm as they drifted along the shallows of the Dine with Shamu pool.
The series of photos shown below (dubbed the “death roll”) depict the final seconds before Dawn was brutally killed after sustaining massive injuries in the attack. Photo #1 is the final frame of Dawn and Tilikum’s interaction as captured by the Connell family of New Hampshire. Photo #2 captures the moments as Dawn and Tilikum slide along the shallow slide-out area above the viewing widows. Photo #3 captures Tilikum rolling as he brings Dawn into the water.
This tragic event was initially reported by SeaWorld and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office that the veteran trainer “slipped or fell” into the pool with the 12,000 lb orca. Those reports were quickly refuted as witnesses came forward. SeaWorld then ran with the “ponytail theory” in order to shift the focus and blame to Dawn herself.
During the September “OSHA vs. SeaWorld” hearings, trainer and spotter Jay Topoleski described under oath that Dawn’s hair flowed right into Tilikum’s mouth while performing a “layout mimic”, a move whereas the trainer and whale lay parallel to one another, on their backs, reaching out with one hand touching the whale’s pectoral fin.
No other eye-witness testimony describes this position, nor is it depicted in the Connell video or final photos taken from the underwater viewing area.
The Orca Project has investigated and reported on the facts surrounding the “ponytail theory” which SeaWorld has recently began to pull back from. All of the details containing eye-witness testimony can be found HERE.
SeaWorld and OSHA will be back in the courtroom next week in Sanford, Florida. In August 2010, SeaWorld was cited by OSHA for “willful” violations of trainer safety. You can follow the details of the court hearing by visiting www.theorcaproject.com and click on the “SeaWorld vs OSHA” tab. Additional photos which unveil SeaWorld’s unscrupulous practices can be see HERE. And be sure to follow us on FaceBook and Twitter for all the latest news and information.