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. (Read more SeaWorld stories.)