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OSHA Shows Video of Another Killer Whale Confrontation in SeaWorld Safety Violation Trial

Posted Sep 22, 2011 8:03 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A lawyer for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration played a video of a trainer’s confrontation with a killer whale on Wednesday in a Florida administrative hearing on SeaWorld’s safety practices.

OSHA accused SeaWorld of showing indifference or disregard to employees’ safety and health after a whale killed trainer Dawn Brancheau in Orlando last year, Reuters reports. The agency is recommending that SeaWorld trainers be barred from close contact with the whales, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The video played on Wednesday showed a 2006 incident involving a different trainer and a different whale in San Diego, according to the Reuters account. The video shows the whale grabbing the trainer by the foot and twice holding him underwater. When the whale surfaced, the trainer patted the animal until it let him go.

SeaWorld corporate animal curator Chuck Tompkins said the video shows other trainers signaling the whale to stop by slapping the water surface and sounding underwater tones. The whale released the trainer on the fifth signal. "I look at that, and that is a well-trained environment," he said.

OSHA lawyers declined to play video of Brancheau's death, even though a federal judge ruled last week that it could be shown, the Associated Press reports. Brancheau's family wanted the video banned because of privacy concerns. The lawyers played portions of the video showing the trainer and whale before the attack, however.

OSHA contends SeaWorld did not properly document all the incidents of aggression shown by its whales, the Sentinel says.

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