VIDEO: Expert - Whale Trainer Made Fatal Mistake

Feb. 26 2010, Published 4:50 a.m. ET

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The Florida SeaWorld trainer who was drowned by an orca whale Wednesday made a mistake that triggered the animal's deadly reaction, her former trainer told Good Morning America Friday.

In a new twist to a story has been following closely, Thad Lacinak said the late Dawn Brancheau broke protocol with Tilikum, the 12,000-pound whale who dragged and held her underwater, drowning her.

The break in protocol was Brancheau lying down in a 4-inch "slide out" device intended for the trainers to stand on, Lacinak said.

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When the whale "pulled her in by the ponytail, I'm pretty sure it was her breaking protocol," he said.

“Sometimes we get too comfortable working with these animals,” Lacinak said. “Sometimes we forget what they are."

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Lacinak said Brancheau "was one of the best killer whale trainers" he'd ever worked with.

"It looks like she made the mistake," he said. "If she was standing here with me, she would tell you that it was her mistake that it happened.”

Brancheau, a 40-year-old Indiana native, was married with no kids.


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