Dead SeaWorld Trainer's Family Stands Behind Killer Whale's Return
The family of Dawn Brancheau, the SeaWorld Orlando trainer that was dragged to her death underwater by an orca in front of horrified onlookers a year ago February, is saying that having the killer whale perform again is what Brancheau would have wanted.
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Brancheau's family seems to hold no animosity against SeaWorld or Tilikum, the 6-ton killer whale that killed her.
"She loved and cared for Tilikum the best that she could, and we want that for Tilikum also" Brancheau's sister, Darlyne Klages, tells the CBS "Early Show" during the first family interview since Brancheau's death.
"We're certainly not safety experts, and we really do leave that up to SeaWorld (or) whoever is handling this," Deborah Frogameni, another one of Brancheau's sisters, tells the news outlet. "We know that's important to SeaWorld also. We're pretty confident that they're going to take that into consideration – and obviously trainer safety is important – but they're not going to do anything to put their trainers in peril."
Tilikum performed for the first time since the incident on March 30. In a statement, Kelly Flaherty Clark, SeaWorld Orlando's animal training curators, says that performing "is an important component of [Tilikum's] physical, social and mental enrichment."
The whale was also involved in two human deaths in 1991 and 1999, the first with a trainer at a British Columbia aquarium and the second a homeless man who sneaked into SeaWorld Orlando's complex after hours.
The company no longer allows trainers to enter pools with killer whales and says plans are being developed to construct an "emergency escape hatch" in pools as a precaution.
Brancheau's family says they did not time their interview to coincide with Tilikum's re-entry into the limelight. Instead, the family wished to announce a foundation that honors Brancheau's memory.
"April 16th would be Dawn's birthday, so we're hosting a 5k run family walk at Seaworld in Orlando. Benefits and portions of the proceeds will go to the Central Florida's Children's home," details her brother, Thomas Loverde.
"Following that, there will be a dedication of the existing education facility and it will now be the Dawn Brancheau Educational Complex, so we're really proud that her name will remain at that facility since it was such an important part of her life."
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