SeaWorld Trainer Dies in Killer Whale Attack

UPDATED 02/24/2010 at 10:05 PM EST Originally published 02/24/2010 at 04:50 PM EST

SeaWorld Trainer Dies in Killer Whale Attack
Killer whales
Richmong Gibbs/AP
Guests at SeaWorld Orlando watched in horror Wednesday as a killer whale fatally attacked a trainer.

Dawn Brancheau, 40, was explaining details of a frequently performed show at Shamu Stadium at 2 p.m. when the 12,000-pound male whale named Tilikum pulled her into the tank, where she drowned.

About two dozen tourists witnessed the attack from above the tank and from an underwater viewing area, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Witnesses said the whale had grabbed Brancheau by the upper arm or waist. "He was thrashing her around pretty good," Victoria Biniak tells WKMG-TV. "It was violent."

Paramedics were called to the theme park but could not revive the woman, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

"It is with great sadness that I report one of our most experienced trainers has drowned in an incident with one of our whales," park manager Dan Brown says, according to the WKMG.

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