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SeaWorld San Diego worked to improve safety after several whale trainer injuries

SeaWorld San Diego, which temporarily closed its Shamu whale attraction on Wednesday after the death of a whale trainer on Florida, has worked to improve safety after several incidents over the last three decades in which trainers were hurt.

The first reported incident occurred in 1971, when an employee suffered puncture wounds when a whale tossed her, according to Times reports. The last reported one was in 2006, when a 33-year-old trainer was hospitalized after a killer whale dragged him to the bottom of the Shamu pool during a show.

There were a series of incidents in the mid-1980s that led to the removal of several executives at the park and new safety measures, according to Times reports.

Trainer Joanne Webber's neck was fractured June 15, 1987, during a practice session when a whale leaped into the air above her, then landed on her "with the full force of 6,000 pounds, fracturing her neck and thrusting her underwater to the bottom of a 40-foot-deep pool," according to a lawsuit she filed.

Ex-trainer Jonathan Smith was injured during a March 1987 performance when two killer whales seized him in their jaws and repeatedly dragged him 32 feet to the bottom of the pool. After about 2 1/2 minutes, during which he was smashed against the floor of the tank, Smith escaped. He was hospitalized nine days with bruised kidneys and ribs and a 6-inch cut on his liver. 

After those incidents, SeaWorld made changes to the whale attractions and said safety was significantly improved.

SeaWorld San Diego has not announced whether its whale attraction will reopen Thursday.

-- Shelby Grad

Photo: ( RED HUBER, ORLANDO SENTINEL / February 24, 2010 )

A SeaWorld employee died this afternoon during an incident at SeaWorld's Shamu Stadium, an Orange County Sheriff's Office official confirmed. Officials said at a press conference that the victim was a female animal trainer who was killed after she was grabbed by one of the theme park's whales at the start of a public show.

Comments () | Archives (13)

I have a suggestion for how they can ensure complete safety - remove the whales from these tanks and put them back in the ocean.

There, I have just solved the entire problem.

after the lst attack in the 90's. the whale should of been released, don't know
about all of them, like a dog that bites, exterminated

The trainers know the risks and consequences when dealing with these animals. We can't predict what killer whales are going to do either.

They are not called "Killer Whales" for nothing. These creatures should not be coerced to entertain humans and penned in confinement. They should be left alone in their natural habitats. Until people realize that animals are not put on this planet for entertainment purposes, these senseless accidents and deaths for both humans and animals will continue to occur.

Wow! I could not agree more, Toradoes28. It is an absolute tragedy that we still keep these intelligent, beautiful creatures confined to these small tanks solely for our amusement. A century from now people will look back on this as barbaric. I really hope we release all captive marine mammals in my lifetime!

Please stop using animals to "entertain" pathetic, ignorant humans.

Um - they're called KILLER whales for a reason. These are wild animals. Granted, they're very smart and very trainable, but unlike, say, dogs - which are all genetically wolves - humanity hasn't had tens of thousands of years to breed them into relative timidity.

If you go into that kind of job, you accept the risk. If you take your kid to that kind of show, there is a chance the tike will get a bit more of a nature lesson than you intended.

If you're willing to accept the risks, go for it. That trainer knew what she was getting into.

I couldn't agree more with Tornadoes28.
How does Sea World recognize the implications of keeping a KILLER whale captive and then expect to "work to improve safety"? If you're a whale, and you're supposed to live in the ocean, would you really expect to live in something the size of a tank? It's absurd we keep them captive, for the purpose of our entertainment, and expect them to be sane. I'm sure a human being would go insane if they were told to do tricks all day, expected to live in a room and watch others come and go as they please. It's like humans forget that other animals are living beings too.

It isn't the fault of the whale, so totally wrong to even suggest putting it down. He never should have been there in the first place. If so, this never would have happened. People should really think about whether they want to pay money to keep an operation like Sea World in business. To enable Sea World's profit motive is reinforcing the mistreatment of animals that deserve to be free.

It's sad that lives have been lost but these people knew what they were getting into while they were studying this in college. we are not talking about gold fish people. This is an exotic animal in a domestic environment helloooo that doesn't work... would you go to sleep with a lion at the foot of your bed? No you wouldn't because IF HE GETS MAD OR HUNGRY HE WILL KILL YOU, it is a survival instinct. Its simple, either quit taking these animals out of their environment OR quit acting surprised when they kill or injure people.

Let's see... three people dead, one whale involved? Time to make MUKTUK out of Tilli.

What does 'Post doesn't belong to the blog' mean?

Whales are meant to live in the oceans. Maybe they are hurting people because they want to escape. But since they are there for entertainment, they must be taken cared of (not hurt) and proper preventions should be imposed to avoid injuries.


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