Death at SeaWorld: Eyewitness Interview With Jessica Wilder

An eyewitness to Dawn Brancheau's tragic 2010 death describes how Tilikum rammed Brancheau while she tried in vain to protect herself.

On Feb. 24, 2010, a gruesome tragedy occurred at SeaWorld Florida: The orca Tilikum killed his trainer, Dawn Brancheau—snatching her from the shallows of his pool, pulling her underwater, scalping and ramming her, and refusing to relinquish her body.

In November 2012, through the Freedom of Information Act, TakePart obtained eyewitness interviews of Brancheau’s death. The interviews were conducted by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office on or around that fateful day.

These accounts make it abundantly clear why such close proximity to the ocean’s apex predator can create an unsafe workplace.

The legal fallout of Brancheau’s death is long and complicated, but the bottom line is that cetaceans of all types, be they whales or dolphins, should not be held in small tanks, forced to live a life performing tricks for food. 

In this audio tape, eyewitness Jessica Wilder describes in gripping detail how the 12,000-pound orca repeatedly rammed Brancheau, who at one point curled up into a ball in a vain attempt to protect herself.

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