A B.C. critic of keeping whales in captivity says her group warned aquarium officials not to keep a bull whale named Tilikum in shows after it was involved in the death of a trainer in 1991.
Today (February 24), Tilikum, the largest orca in captivity, was linked to his third human death in 19 years. Two occurred at SeaWorld's Orlando facility.
Annelise Sorg, spokesperson for No Whales in Captivity, told the Georgia Straight by phone that her organization raised the alarm after Keltie Byrne, 20, died in 1991 after ending up in the whale pool at Sealand of the Pacific in Oak Bay.
"We all begged them, 'Don't allow these whales to be allowed...in captivity with other people,' " Sorg said. "It's just ridiculous. And they didn't listen."
According to Sorg, Byrne tried to get out of the tank, and the whales grabbed her and pulled her back in with their teeth. She added that when her body was recovered, there were no teeth marks, indicating how gently the whales had handled her.
"They would try to swim with her," she said. "They would squish her between two whales, like they would do to an injured whale. They drowned her. It took two hours to get the body out."
Sealand of the Pacific closed after Byrne's death, and Tilikum was transferred to Florida, where he ended up in SeaWorld's Orlando facility.
In 1999, a 27-year-old man was found dead draped over Tilikum's back after he snuck into the SeaWorld pen to swim with whales.
Today, SeaWorld announced that a female trainer died after ending up in a whale pool at SeaWorld in Orlando.
The Orlando Sentinel has reported that Tilikum pulled Dawn Brancheau, 40, into the pool after a Dine With Shamu show. She reportedly drowned in front of at least two dozen spectators.
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