ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 24 (UPI) — A killer whale launched a fatal attack on a trainer Wednesday in front of an audience at SeaWorld in Florida, officials said.
The show at Shamu Stadium was halted and the audience removed, the Orlando Sentinel reported. The park remained open.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office said the trainer was dead by the time rescue workers arrived.
Victoria Biniak, who was watching the show, told WKMG-TV in Orlando the trainer was a woman. The TV station identified the whale as Tillikum or Tilly.
“The trainer was explaining different things about the whale and then the trainer that was down there walked away from the window. Then Tilly took off really fast in the tank and he came back, shot up in the air, grabbed the trainer by the waist and started thrashing around,” Biniak said.
Tillikum was sold to SeaWorld in 1992, the Sentinel said. In 1991 the whale was involved in drowning a trainer at Sealand of the Pacific in British Columbia.
In 1999 park employees found the body of a homeless man on the whale’s back. Investigators determined the man probably drowned after becoming hypothermic in the chilly water and that the whale attacked his body, believing it was a toy.
Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.