Staff and management at SeaWorld parks are in shock today following the death of one of their most experienced animal trainers in Orlando.
The female victim, whose identity has not yet been released, either slipped or fell into the tank in the Orca whale holding area in the Shamu Stadium. The trainer was fatally injured by one of the whales and then drowned, according to an initial assessment by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, who were called to the scene at 2:00p.m. EST following the accident.
The Sheriff’s Office said that there was “no sense of foul play” in answer to questions about whether the trainer was attacked after falling into the tank. The cause of death is under investigation.
Park management made a brief statement following the incident.
"It is with great sadness that I report that one of our most experienced animal trainers drowned in an incident with one of our killer whales this afternoon," said SeaWorld Orlando President Dan Brown in a brief televised press conference. "We have initiated an investigation to determine to the extent possible what occurred. There are no other details to share at this point, but we will make our findings known in due course."
Brown added that the safety of employees, guests, and animals is of the “utmost importance” to SeaWorld. He promised a thorough review of park operations and safety regulations.
“We have never in the history of our parks experienced an incident like this, and all of our standard operating procedures will come under review as part of our investigation," said Brown. "We extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the trainer and will do everything possible to help them in this difficult time."
“We’ve just lost a member of our family,” he added, visibly shaken.
Soon after the incident the afternoon Shamu show at the SeaWorld Park in Los Angeles was cancelled.
"We're terribly saddened by the loss of the member of our SeaWorld family, it doesn't matter what park," said SeaWorld San Diego spokesman David Koontz to the Los Angeles Times.