SeaWorld Trainer’s Harrowing Last Moments as Whale ‘Deep Dived’ With Her Body

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It has been 11 years since trainer, Dawn Brancheau, was drowned by the captive killer whale, Tilikum. But now more details surrounding her tragic death have emerged.

TW: This article contains graphic content that some may find upsetting.

New details surrounding Dawn Brancheau’s gory death have finally come to light…

The trainer died of “drowning and traumatic injuries” after being mauled by Tilikum, the 22ft orca.
But the moments before her death are truly harrowing…

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Since the 1960s, whales and dolphins have been kept in captivity and have been forced to perform to audiences of hundreds of people, all to make money for the companies keeping them in their confinement.

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As well as whales, dolphins have been used in captivity for many years for the purpose of human entertainment. SeaWorld, which has 3 parks in the US and one in Dubai, made the captivity of these mammals popular in the amusement park industry and has featured whales and dolphins in performances since its first few years of opening in the 1960s.

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Since SeaWorld opened in 1964, a total of 200 orca whales (killer whales) have been taken from the wild and put into captivity; 166 of these orcas are now dead. At least forty-nine orcas have died at a SeaWorld park.

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As a likely consequence of their intelligence, dolphins and whales are trained and forced to adopt traits that are usually considered unusual in their species in the wild. For instance, dolphins are trained with food to learn their tricks, but this training involves food deprivation. They are also trained to present their tails and remain motionless for regular blood draws, which is obviously not natural.

Dolphins and whales swim up to a hundred miles a day in the wild; whilst in captivity, the space that they are kept in is the equivalent to a bathtub. What on earth is humane about that?

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Since 2013, 4 humans have been killed by interacting with orca whales. All of these incidents happened while the whales were kept in captivity.

One of them being forty-one-year-old Dawn Brancheau…

She was dragged into the water during a show so fast that not many people realized what had happened at first.

A police report written in February 2010 delves into her harrowing death…

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Jan Topoleski told investigators that “Dawn was lying on her stomach… Tilikum was interacting with her nose to nose. Dawn’s long hair floated on the water into Tilikum’s mouth.”

He added that he saw her struggle as the orca grabbed hold of her hair in his mouth. He immediately pushed the alarm button.

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Moments later, Dawn was submerged.

Employees raced to the pool in an attempt to distract the agitated Tilikum.

Tilikum had already been responsible for the deaths of 2 people, meaning no trainers were allowed to swim with him.

CCTV footage showed Dawn entering the water at 13:38. By 13:43 Tilikum was seen swimming with her lifeless body.

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However, the horror wasn’t just caught on camera. Tourists watched in horror underneath the surface as Dawn was dragged under.

At the Dine with Shamu area, terrified onlookers saw the whole thing.

Usually, a SeaWorld staffer would let people know when to take pictures of the orca underwater, but this was unexpected. 

Lynne saw “him pull her in.”

Dawn’s death played out like a real-time horror film as the whale began to drown her.

Lynne knew Dawn was in trouble as Tilikum was a “possessive” animal.

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She added that he never let Dawn come to the surface.

Stacy Nichols was working on the Dine with Shamu show when she saw Tilikum do a “deep dive” with the trainer in his mouth.

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One of the horrified tourists also noted that he was violently shaking her.

Other witnesses claimed they saw Tilikum “hit her,” dragging her by the arm and torso.

One witness said she saw Dawn “scrambling” to get out of the water, and Tilikum “impact her squarely in the chest”.
Next, she claimed he “looped around and came back towards Dawn Brancheau with his mouth open.”

He was reportedly swimming manically the entire time.

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Smaller whales in the same tank were quickly moved to neighboring pools while staff tried to save Dawn.

Staff “asked for control” by slapping the water, but Tilikum ignored them “thrashing violently back and forth” with dawn in his mouth.

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SeaWorld paramedic Thomas Tobin admitted it was “three to four minutes” without seeing Dawn reach the surface.

Thirty minutes later, Dawn was finally freed from Tilikum.

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Thomas said she had been scalped and realized that she had died. He added that he believed that she had a broken neck.

SeaWorld employees had to dive to the bottom of the pool to retrieve her scalp.

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Even after her body had been retrieved from the water, Tilikum appeared to frantically try and retrieve it.

Her body was placed under a black sheet five feet away.

The report claims “Tilikum the whale could clearly be seen at the edge of ‘D’ pool. He would periodically lift himself above the pool wall.”

It is still not known what triggered Tilikum to attack that day. Some people think he might have mistaken her ponytail for a toy.

More than likely it was twenty-six years of being confined to a concrete tank.

Now, 6 years after the tragedy SeaWorld announced it is ending its program of breeding orcas in captivity.

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