Animal Rights

SeaWorld Fined $75,000 for Trainer's Death

| by Mark Berman Opposing Views

SeaWorld Orlando has been fined $75,000 in connection with the death of a trainer by the killer whale Tilikum.

In February, the whale grabbed Dawn Brancheau and dragged her underwater, drowning her as an audience watched in horror. Now the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited SeaWorld for three violations.

The most serious violation is categorized as "willful," or showing indifference or intentional disregard for employee safety. It said SeaWorld exposed workers to drowning hazards when interacting with killer whales. That citation alone carries a $70,000 fine.

The OSHA report described Tilikum as having "known aggressive tendencies," noting the whale's involvement in at least two previous deaths. In a statement released with the report, OSHA said:

"SeaWorld trainers had an extensive history of unexpected and potentially dangerous incidents involving killer whales at its various facilities, including its location in Orlando."

The report recommends that trainers not work with Tilikum or the other killer whales at the park, either in the water or out of water, unless they are protected by a barrier, deck or oxygen-supply system underwater.

SeaWorld trainers were already forbidden from getting into the water with Tilikum, but the killer whale still managed to grab Brancheau's long hair as she lay on her stomach on a cement slab in three inches of water.

The second citation, deemed "serious," was for failing to install a stairway railing system beside the stage in Shamu Stadium. That citation carried a $5,000 penalty.

A third citation considered "other-than-serious" was for failing to have weather-protected electrical receptacles. That citation didn't have a penalty.

In a statement, SeaWorld spokesman Fred Jacobs said the park will contest the citation:

"SeaWorld disagrees with the unfounded allegations made by OSHA today."