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Haunting last image of SeaWorld trainer moments before trapped orca snatched and killer her
Featured Image Credit: Twitter/@fasc1nate / kpa/United Archives via Getty Images

Haunting last image of SeaWorld trainer moments before trapped orca snatched and killer her

A SeaWorld trainer's life was tragically cut short after a terrible incident with a 12,000lb whale.

A seemingly innocent image of a trainer at SeaWorld is made infinitely darker when the story behind it is revealed.

SeaWorld has long had a shaky reputation, but despite this, many people still visit for their first wonderful experience with some of the world’s greatest marine animals.

One of the main attractions at the theme park in Orlando had always been the orca whales, with many becoming famous - including a captive male named Tilikum.

However, in 2010, an incident involving Tilikum left guests at the park shocked and devastated after a show went wrong.

Dawn Brancheau had worked at the Orlando resort for over 15 years as an animal trainer, but would go on to lose her life after an incident with the 12,000lb whale.

Tilikum, also known as Tily or by the generic stage name of ‘Shamu, suddenly grabbed 40-year-old Dawn by her ponytail during a show and dragged her under the water, much to the guests’ horror.

Dawn Brancheau worked as a trainer for 15 years.

The whale thrashed around with Dawn in its grip for over 45 minutes as guests could do nothing but look on in shock.

One guest even recalled the harrowing moment the whale swam by the viewing window with Dawn's lifeless body in its mouth.

An autopsy later determined that Dawn had died due to blunt force trauma and drowning. She had also suffered her left arm being severed below the shoulder and fractures to her jawbone, ribs and cervical vertebra.

Following the incident the United States Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited SeaWorld of Florida LLC for three safety violations and ordered the park to pay a penalty of $75,000.

SeaWorld was also forced to implement a rule that prevented trainers from getting into the water with whales during the shows.

An image of Dawn right before she was snatched has also begun to circulate on social media, stunning users:

In 2010 an incident left guests at the park shocked after a show went wrong.

Speaking to The Sun in 2022, Brancheau’s sister Debbie Frogameni said the family was still trying to understand what had happened.

"Some days, I think we are still processing her loss," she said. "Dawn was just so special to so many people and I'm not sure you ever get past losing someone like her.

"I think we do find some comfort knowing that she accomplished and experienced more in her short 40 years than most people who live long lives.

"But that doesn't take away what our family and the world lost that day."

In a statement to the outlet, SeaWorld emphasized that they continue to not allow trainers into the water with whales.

“That tragic situation happened more than 12 years ago. Trainers have not been in the water training with killer whales for many years.

“We have extensive protocols and training in place to protect the safety of our trainers and animals."

Topics: Animals, US News