The SeaWorld trainer slain by a killer whale yesterday was pulled underwater by her ponytail, according to the company, the latest in a variety of explanations as to how she ended up in the water. Because of Tillikum’s size and history, trainers never got into the pool with him. Some witnesses had said the mammoth whale jumped out of the water and grabbed Dawn Brancheau by the waist, while police have said she slipped.
“She had a long ponytail that brushed in front of her and apparently got in front of his nose,” a SeaWorld official tells CNN. “He probably felt it.” Then, Brancheau was “pulled underwater for an extended period of time,” though the official would not speculate as to the exact cause of death because the investigation is continuing. Though the incident was extremely unfortunate, he continues, “to mark him as a killer is unfair.”