Whale Trainer Died From Multiple Traumatic Injuries and Drowning

Feb. 25 2010, Published 6:06 a.m. ET

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The cause of death of Dawn Brancheau, the 40-year-old trainer who was killed by Tillikum the killer whale at Florida’s SeaWorld on Wednesday, has been determined to be most likely from “multiple traumatic injuries and drowning” according to the Orange County Medical Examiner. 

The report released by the Sheriff’s Homicide Investigators said that Brancheau “was apparently interacting with the attraction’s largest male whale in knee deep water when the animal grabbed her by the hair, said to be in a long pony tail, and pulled her underwater.”  She was pulled into the pool behind Shamu Stadium by Tillikum, the 30-year-old killer whale. 

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Mother Of Killed Whale Trainer - “My Daughter Died Doing What She Loves Best”

Brancheau had 16 years of experience working with Orcas and the report said “Rescuers were not able to immediately jump in and render assistance to the Brancheau due to the whale’s aggressive nature.”

The original theory behind her death was that Dawn had slipped into the orca’s pool, but after interviewing witnesses it became apparent to the Sheriff’s that the whale pulled Brancheau into the pool. The report said “She was recovered from the whale by SeaWorld staff members after the animal was coaxed into a smaller pool and lifted out of the water by a large scale/platform that lay on the bottom of the smaller tank.”

Dawn’s mother Marion Loverde spoke with about her daughter’s love of the whale and her passion about the animals. “My daughter would not have wanted the whale to have been put-down – she was very happy working with her whales and was a wonderful person,” Marion said. 

Witness: Whale Emerged From Water With Trainer In It’s Mouth

“My family are all still in a state of shock, and her husband is absolutely devastated. They lived for one another; Dawn’s death is a tragic loss.”


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