ORLANDO, Fla. — A trainer at SeaWorld Orlando died Wednesday after a killer whale attacked her in front of a horrified audience.
Orange County Fire Rescue spokesman John Mulhall said paramedics were called to the Shamu Stadium at the theme park resort where they found a worker who could not be revived.
Park guest Victoria Biniak told WKMG-TV that the trainer had just finished explaining to the audience the show they were about to see.
Biniak told the station the whale suddenly came up from the water, grabbed the trainer around the waist and “thrashed her all around” to the point the trainer's shoe fell off.
“He was thrashing her around pretty good,” Biniak said. “It was violent.”
The guests were asked to leave and the park was closed.
There have been several previous attacks on whale trainers at SeaWorld parks.
In Nov. 2006, trainer Kenneth Peters, 39, was bitten and held underwater several times by a 7,000-pound killer whale during a show at SeaWorld's San Diego park. He escaped with a broken foot. The 17-foot-long orca who attacked him was the dominant female of SeaWorld San Diego's seven killer whales. She had attacked Peters two other times, in 1993 and 1999.
In 2004, another whale at the company's San Antonio park tried to hit one of the trainers and attempted to bite him. He also escaped.
In December, a whale drowned a trainer at a Spanish zoo.
At the Orlando SeaWorld, the body of a naked man was found scratched, bruised and draped over a 5-ton orca named Tilikum in July 1999. Daniel Dukes, 27, reportedly made his way past security at SeaWorld, remaining in the park after it had closed. Wearing only his underwear, Dukes either jumped, fell or was pulled into the frigid water of Tilikum's huge tank.
An autopsy ruled that he died of hypothermia in the 50-degree water. Dukes' parents filed a lawsuit against the park later that year but later withdrew it.