An experienced trainer standing in a waist-deep portion or an orca tank was pulled in deeper and killed by an orca named Telly, which grabbed her around the waist and shook her violently. Both trauma and drowning were cited as causes of death. It is not clear whether the whale intended to harm her or was being playful. This particular orca was a longtime behavior problem and had been involved in the deaths of another trainer and an intruder in past years.
COMMENT: I'm not about to engage in any speculation on this tragedy, but I posted it here because I some media outlets will doubtless be quoting people who think it improper if not downright evil to keep any whale in captivity. I understand the argument: these are intelligent, emotionally complex animals, and their captivity should at least be limited to established organizations with very large tanks and expert staff. After a trainer was bitten at another Sea World park in 2006, staff were forbidden to swim with the whales during shows. The main reason I am reluctant to say "release them all" is because captive whales, despite horrific incidents like this, have done enormous good for all whales by demonstrating they are smart and usually gentle creatures. Videos just don't have the impact of millions of people every year seeing whales close up. I'm not sure what the right action to take in the aftermath of this incident might be.