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Trainer Killed By Whale Was From NW Indiana

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Feb 25, 2010 3:40PM

Dawn Brancheau, the trainer killed by a whale yesterday at Sea World (Orlando) was a native of Cedar Lake, Indiana. Brancheau, 40, died from drowning yesterday afternoon when the whale Tilikum grabbed her and pulled her under. From ABC 7:

Because of his size and the previous deaths, trainers were not supposed to get into the water with Tilikum, and only about a dozen of the park's 29 trainers worked with him. Brancheau had more experience with the whale than most.

An audience member, Victoria Biniak, told WKMG-TV the whale "took off really fast in the tank, and then he came back, shot up in the air, grabbed the trainer by the waist and started thrashing around, and one of her shoes flew off."

Brancheau is the third deathTilikum has been connected to. Sea World officials say trainers are well aware of the risks they take, a sentiment Brancheau echoed in a 2006 interview, saying, "You can't put yourself in the water unless you trust them and they trust you." Family members remembered Brancheau, a graduate of Andrian Catholic High School in Merrillville and later University of South Carolina with degrees in psychology and animal behavior, as "loving, caring, spiritual." Diane Gross, her sister, said, "She died doing what she loved. I look at it as an unfortunate accident. She went to work every day loving her job, and that's how she died."