Killer orca had dead SeaWorld trainer in mouth as visitor came to viewing window

A SeaWorld visitor has told of the horrifying time she saw a killer whale with a dead trainer in its mouth.

Dawn Brancheau, 40 at the time of her death, was killed by notorious orca Tilikum in 2010 after the creature dragged her underwater.

Dawn eventually died from drowning, although her spinal cord was severed and head scalped. She had worked at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida for 15 years.

READ MORE: SeaWorld trainer's heartbreaking words as she was dragged down by two massive orcas

Tilikum, who weighed six tons and was 22ft long, was also involved in the deaths of two other people – animal trainer Keltie Byrne and Daniel Dukes, a member of the public.

The minutes leading up to Dawn's death were captured in chilling video footage.

The gruesome incident led to major changes at SeaWorld parks, with trainers no longer allowed to get in the water with orcas, but the memory still haunts witnesses like Dutch tourist Susanne De Wit.

In a statement to the Orange County Sheriff's Office, seen by The Sun, she recalled watching Tilikum (referred to by generic stage name "Shamu") through a viewing window as Dawn was killed.

The statement read: "They told us he was playing with the trainer. Suddenly I saw Shamu grabbing the trainer by the shoulder and pulling her down in the water near the window.

"It did not look normal. It was scary. He was very wild with the trainer still in the whale’s mouth. The whale’s tail was very wild in the water.

"The tour guide pulled us out and there was a full alarm. We then saw them throw a net into the water."

A report into Dawn's death by the Sheriff's Office refers to an interview with Susanne, noting how she recalled seeing Dawn's legs as she moved "extremely fast" while Tilikum "was shaking".

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SeaWorld said in a statement: "That tragic situation happened more than 12 years ago. Trainers have not been in the water training with killer whales for many years.

"We have extensive protocols and training in place to protect the safety of our trainers and animals."


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