By Debbie Emery – Radar Reporter
Disturbing video footage of a 2006 killer whale attack at Sea World in San Diego during which a trainer was dragged and held underwater has now gone viral, and RadarOnline.com has exclusive insight from the man who fought to release it to the world.
“I have been hoping to make it public for a long time after I watched it played in court as evidence,” David Kirby, author of the new expose Death At Sea World, told RadarOnline.com in an exclusive interview, explaining that he believes if it had been released earlier, the footage could have prevented the tragic death of another trainer years later.
The 15-minute long recording shows 5,000 pound killer whale Kasatka clamping down on trainer Ken Peters‘ foot soon after he entered the water and then holding him down. About a minute later, the 39-year-old broke the surface gasping for breath but the marine mammal refused to let go and took him under for a second time, tossing him and twisting him down below like a rag doll. About nine minutes after the terrifying ordeal began, Peters, who had trained the 30-year-old whale for many years before she turned on him, finally escaped her grip and crawled onto a platform.
Four years after Kasatka went on her underwater rampage, a similar incident at Sea World had a far more tragic outcome when 40-year-old trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by an 11,000 pound killer whale called Tilikum after he dragged her under by her ponytail, and the video of Peters’ attack became a dramatic piece of evidence in a Florida courtroom in the fall of 2011.
The state of California investigated the Peters incident and issued a very scathing report along with all kinds of recommendations for safety measures, but Sea World applied political pressure and basically got the report rescinded, Kirby told Radar. “They warned, ‘If nobody has been killed yet, it is just a matter of time,’ and almost exactly three years later, Dawn died.
“I can’t say for sure if she would be alive today if all of those things had happened, but it does show that Sea World does not think that it has a problem,” the investigative reporter revealed. “There was a very serious attack in 2006, a very serious warning from the California safety board, and within three years there were deaths by killer whales in both Spain and the U.S.,” he added.
Kirby went on to explain that he believes the videoed attack on Peters occurred because Kasatka was separated from her calf and was anxiously pining for her.
“She was not permitted to go back to it because she had to perform a show. She was upset and she was trying to tell Ken Peters, ‘I don’t want to do a show, I want to be with my calf.’”
Concerned for the welfare of both captive whales and humans, the Death At Sea World author said he believes the industry is “unethical.”
“As to whether trainers should be allowed in the water with whales or not, personally I don’t really care. If you want to get into the pool with the ocean’s top predator and risk your life, that is your business, but the federal government sees it differently,” he explained, referring to a ruling that parks either get the trainers out of the water or offer some kind of protection.
“Sea World is in the process of doing that with a fast-rising pool bottom that can reach the surface in 60 seconds,” which would save trainers if they were dragged under, Kirby explained.
Rather than spending the $73 price per ticket at Sea World San Diego, he advises wildlife watchers to head north and visit San Juan Island in Washington state, “where the killer whales are out in the wild and you can literally drive along the coast and watch them as they roll around in the kelp and play with each other,” he said.
Death At Sea World by David Kirby is available at Amazon.com for $26.99.
Despite suffering puncture wounds and other injuries during his near-death ordeal, Peters still reportedly works at the popular Southern California theme park.