Whale in Deadly Attack Has Violent History
40-year-old trainer was fatally injured in front of spectators
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 24, 2010 7:29 PM CST
A 2005 file photo of Dawn Brancheau, who was killed today.   (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Julie Fletcher)
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(Newser) – The SeaWorld employee killed today by a 12,000-pound whale in front of spectators has been identified as 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau, a trainer with years of experience. About two dozen spectators at the Dine With Shamu show watched in horror as Tilikum, a male killer whale, pulled Brancheau into the water and thrashed her about. It's now emerging that Tilikum has a violent history, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

In 1991, the whale was blamed in the drowning of a trainer at a park in British Columbia. In 1999, the body of a man who apparently snuck into SeaWorld after hours was found lying on Tilikum's back. He likely drowned, but Tilikum apparently bit the man and tore off his swimming trunks. A former SeaWorld contractor tells the Sentinel that Tilikum is generally kept isolated from the park's other killer whales and that trainers are forbidden to get in the water with him.