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Main Concern for Family of Woman Drowned by Killer Whale is Safety of Other Employees

The family of Dawn Brancheau, a SeaWorld Orlando trainer who drowned when a killer whale pulled her into the water, has one concern – and that is for the safety of other trainers at SeaWorld Orlando.

A federal job safety hearing before the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Review Commission reconvened this week to look into the death of Brancheau in February 2010. In an article on CNN.com, the family issued a statement saying their “interest in the case is the safety of the current and future SeaWorld employees and their hope (that) no other family will have to suffer like we have had to.”

It may not be the kind of accident that could happen here in Pennsylvania, but as workers’ comp attorneys we are interested in the testimony of other SeaWorld trainers regarding the dangers of the job and the training procedures that are involved.

For instance, SeaWorld employees testified that trainers of killer whales are taught to recoginize “precursors” or odd behaviors that could lead to aggression. Yet, the article says that OSHA attorneys reviewed multiple SeaWorld incident reports in which trainers missed aggressive behaviors.

In August 2010, OSHA cited SeaWorld of Florida, Inc., for willfully endangering employees by not taking proper safety precautions. OSHA said the park allowed its employees to work with Tilikum, a killer whale with “known aggressive tendencies.” OSHA also said that SeaWorld Orlando did not provide barriers, decking, oxygen supply systems or other types of protection for the trainers. It will be interesting to see the results of the hearing, scheduled to conclude Friday.


If you or someone you know has been injured on the job, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact the workers’ comp attorneys at Michael J. O’Connor & Associates for a free review of your case.