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History - Science
Tilikum the orca, infamous for killing two people previously in marine water parks, dragged SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau into a swim tank on February 24, 2010. Brancheau was performing on a water platform on her belly when her ponytail went into the orca’s mouth, and she was pulled underwater, despite struggling to free herself.
Although the OCSO Investigative Report recorded witnesses saying that Brancheau was “scrambling” to escape, the 12,000-pound orca struck her “squarely in the chest,” before dragging her underwater and holding her there for more than 30 minutes. According to witnesses who had worked with Tilikum, he was known as an animal that would not release items once he had them, which is definitely how he held onto Brancheau.
The orca held on to Brancheau by various parts of her body and shook her vigorously, only surfacing to breathe, while avoiding other trainers who tried to control him. The cause of death was listed as drowning and traumatic injuries that the 23-foot-long killer whale caused on Brancheau’s 5’7, 123-pound frame.
The report states that Brancheau was horribly bruised, cut, and scraped, with her left elbow and knee being dislocated, along with multiple broken bones, including her ribs, jaw and neck. Her liver had been torn, while her scalp and left arm were ripped off — pieces of her body that the workers had to retrieve from the tank after extracting her from the orca’s mouth.
This was a brutal end to a woman’s life who had dreamt of working closely with marine mammals as a SeaWorld trainer, ever since she saw the Shamu show as a child. She lived the dream for 15 years, and she was survived by her husband, Scott.