Death at SeaWorld: Eyewitness Interview With Laura Surovik

An eyewitness to Dawn Brancheau's tragic 2010 death describes the grueling efforts to retrieve her friend’s body.

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, Laura Suvorik, an assistant curator of animal training at SeaWorld Florida and a close friend of Brancheau's, displays extraordinary composure as she describes the grueling efforts to get the rampaging Tilikum to relinquish her friend’s body.

Suvorik’s interview was conducted on Feb. 24, 2010, at 4:58 p.m., just hours after Brancheau was killed.

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