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Video: Final report released in SeaWorld whale attack

  1. Closed captioning of: Final report released in SeaWorld whale attack

    >>> about cymbalta. depression hurts.

    >>> we're back at 7:50 with chilling findings from the final report into february's deadly killer whale attack at seaworld. nbc 's kerry sanders has the details on that. kerry , good morning.

    >> reporter: well, good morning. the report is a detailed and gripping narrative. in more than 40 witness interviews, detectives have pieced together a moment by moment account in the final minutes, final terrifying minutes in trainer dawn brancheau's life. as trainer dawn brancheau lay on her stomach nose-to-nose with tilik tilikum , the killer whale , jan watched, his role -- spot her in case anything went wrong and it did.

    >> i observed was maybe a little current of water, a ripple of water blow her hair into his mouth. all of a sudden i saw her pulling on her hair to try to pull out.

    >> reporter: he tells detectives he turned to pull an alarm and when he turned back --

    >> i turned around. i did not see dawn. i did not see tilikum the whale anywhere in the pool. all i did see was her sandals in the water floating.

    >> reporter: in the recorded and written interviews, it is clear dawn was caught off guard . one trainer said she saw him pull her in. that tilikum is a possessive animal. a 12,000-pored orca that doe sheent think ever allowed dawn brancheau to come to the surface. down below through a window in the tank, guests and seaworld employees waiting to take photos witnessed tilikum doing a deep dive and dawn brancheau was in his mouth. up to 15 employees tried to rescue her.

    >> we tried to get dawn out of the water. tilikum seemed to become more agitated and would not allow anybody to get near her.

    >> reporter: two security cameras recorded the attack but the video has not been released. from above detectives write they could see a splash, a camera shooting underneath shows dawn repeatedly attempting to swim to the surface. a fighter, she gets free at one point but tilikum can be seen striking dawn, and then he immediately began swimming underwater with dawn in his mouth. detectives say the video reveals she was killed in less than three horrific minutes. at a congressional hearing this week, debate. are parks like seaworld educational as the law requires?

    >> there is little , if any, evidence that any real education is taking place during visits to theme parks .

    >> reporter: seaworld, part of an $8 billion industry, says it is clear they are educational.

    >> there's been 500 million people who have come to the parks and learned about killer whales through our shows.

    >> reporter: this report does not conclude whether tilikum -- or what should happen to tilikum which has now been involved in three human's deaths. meantime, dawn brancheau's death has been ruled accidental. matt?

    >> kerry sanders , thanks very much.

    >>> back after your local news.

By
updated 4/29/2010 10:16:35 AM ET 2010-04-29T14:16:35

A SeaWorld Orlando trainer managed to free herself for a short time and tried to swim to the surface after she was dragged underwater by a killer whale, but the animal thwarted her attempts by striking her at least twice, according to a final death report released Wednesday.

Dawn Brancheau, 40, had been lying on her stomach on a cement slab in three inches of water, nose-to-nose with the killer whale, Tilikum, when her long hair floated into the orca's mouth and he dragged her down.

Lynne Schaber, a SeaWorld employee, told detectives that when she saw Brancheau underwater with the whale, she knew the trainer was in trouble since the Tilikum "is a possessive animal."

"He normally keeps things that he has and will not release them," the report said.

Another SeaWorld trainer, Jan Topoleski, told detectives that he sounded an alarm when he noticed Brancheau struggling to free her hair from the killer whale's mouth. When he turned back toward Brancheau, she had disappeared underwater.

She was dragged to her death at the end of a Feb. 24 Dine with Shamu show, according to the report from Orange County Sheriff's Office homicide detectives.

Topoleski told detectives that Brancheau did nothing to agitate Tilikum.

Ruled an accident
SeaWorld workers used nets to try to corral Tilikum and free Brancheau less than three minutes after the trainer was dragged under. But it took at least a half-hour, moving from pool to pool in the orca complex, before they could recover her body.

SeaWorld worker Chahine Kish said Tilikum appeared to grow more frantic as other workers used nets and threw food to distract him from Brancheau.

Another employee said that once Tilikum was captured and raised out of the water on a platform, Brancheau's body was freed. But workers had to capture the whale again when they realized he still had Brancheau's arm.

The medical examiner said Brancheau died from drowning and traumatic injuries. The death was ruled an accident.

It marked the third time Tilikum had been involved in a human death. Tilikum was one of three orcas blamed for killing a trainer in 1991 after the woman lost her balance and fell in the pool at Sealand of the Pacific near Victoria, British Columbia. Tilikum also was also involved in a 1999 death, when the body of a man who had sneaked by SeaWorld Orlando security was found draped over him.

Sea World trainers were forbidden from getting in the water with Tilikum because of the previous deaths.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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