An animal trainer at SeaWorld Orlando is dead, killed when a whale apparently grabbed the woman and dragged her into the water. This begs the question -- should animals be kept in captivity?
The tragic event happened Wednesday afternoon at SeaWorld's Shamu stadium. Park guest Victoria Biniak told a local TV station that the trainer had just finished explaining to the audience what they would see during the performance.
At that point, Biniak said, the whale came up from the water and grabbed the woman.
"He was thrashing her around pretty good. It was violent,'" Biniak told Local 6.
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The whale "took off really fast in the tank, and then he came back, shot up in the air, grabbed the trainer by the waist and started thrashing around, and one of her shoes flew off."
She said sirens went off and everyone was evacuated from the stadium. The whale show is closed down, but the rest of the park is open.
By the time rescuers arrived, the trainer was dead.
The TV station reports the whale involved is named Tillikum, or Tilly for short. Whatever you call him, the whale has a violent, deadly past. The large whale was blamed for the drowning of one of his trainers in 1991 while he was performing at Sealand of the Pacific in British Columbia.
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He came to SeaWorld the following year. In 1999, there was another incident where a dead naked man was found lying across his back. Authorities later concluded the man, who had either snuck into SeaWorld after hours or hidden in the park until it closed, most likely drowned after suffering hypothermia in the 55-degree water.
But they also said it appeared Tilly bit the man and tore off his swimming trunks, likely believing he was a toy to play with.
A former contractor with SeaWorld told the Orlando Sentinel that Tilly is typically kept isolated from SeaWorld's other killer whales and that trainers were not allowed to get in the water with him because of his violent history.
SeaWorld has had violent incidents with other killer whales over the years. This latest one raises the question of whether animals should be kept in aquariums and zoos at all.
Here at OpposingViews, we have a spirited debate on the issue between noted animal handler Jack Hanna and PETA. Read it HERE