New Details About Whale Attack Responsible for SeaWorld Trainer's Death

Mar. 1 2010, Published 8:05 a.m. ET

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On Monday, Florida's Orange County Sheriff's Department released the witness statements relating to the death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau. has copies of the statements which add chilling detail about the lead up to and aftermath of whale Tilikum's February 24 attack.

Read the Witness Statements

Jan Topeleski, a trainer spotter who Brancheau supervised, was in the underwater viewing area preparing for the guiding animal show and photo tour during which the trainers get the whales to come to the glass to pose for a picture for the theme park's guests.

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VIDEO: Witness Describes Whale Attack; Whale Killed 2 In Past

"I was watching Dawn Brancheau interact at the end of the pool. She was lying down...face to face performing a 'relationship' session with our whale," he wrote in his statement. "I then noticed immediately that he bit down on a piece of her hair. Within the span of 2 seconds she was pulled into the pool, unable to get her hair released from his mouth. I immediately sounded the alarm..."

Chahine Kish also attested to how quickly events turned. "I was cleaning up my section and watching Dawn the trainer play w/Tilly the whale. She was running along side of him. I looked down at my table, then up again and she was gone."

Kish quickly realized what had happened. "I saw Tilly surface with a trainer in his mouth. He was becoming frantic himself."

Killed SeaWorld Trainer Believed in Trust Relationship with Whales

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Shortly after the alarms sounded, the guests were quickly evacuated from the site. One senior animal trainer at the Sea Lions and Otter Stadium related that once they restrained the whale his "mouth had to be pryed sic open" to retrieve Brancheau.

Anthony Sharp, a paramedic for SeaWorld Orlando, said medical responders to the scene pronounced Brancheau dead. Echoed medic Thomas Tobin: "monitor rhythm and wounds inconsistent with life."


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