Autopsy: SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau likely died from drowning, trauma

4:10 PM, Mar 10, 2010   |    comments
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Dawn Brancheau, with one of SeaWorld's killer whales

ORLANDO, Florida (AP) -- Officials say trainers had to coax an aggressive whale into a smaller pool and use a platform to lift it out of the water before they could free a colleague from its jaws.

The Orange County Medical Examiner says 40-year-old trainer Dawn Brancheau probably died from multiple traumatic injuries and drowning after the killer whale pulled her into a pool at SeaWorld Orlando on Wednesday.

The county sheriff's office says co-workers couldn't immediately help her because the whale was so aggressive after it grabbed her by her pony tail and pulled her in.

See Also: SeaWorld staff saw Tilikum as dangerous
Photos: Killer whale immediately after SeaWorld trainer attack

The office says an investigation is continuing but there are no signs of foul play and all evidence indicates it was a tragic accident.

Meanwhile, SeaWorld in San Diego is suspending the Shamu show for a second day.

Spokesman David Koontz says SeaWorld is offering its trainers counseling and are reviewing all its procedures, including how the trainers interact with animals. He says they are approaching the situation slowly and methodically and don't know when the show will resume.

Visitors can still see the orcas from the park's walkways.

On Thursday, Sea World GM Dan Brown read this statement from the family of Dawn Brancheau regarding her death:

"She was the best, it came naturally to her.  Being a trainer was a lifelong dream she achieved.  She was a compassionate, loving person who touched so many lives."

Brown added that funeral arrangements and memorial plans are still pending.

Related - Recent animal stories in the Tampa Bay area:

Vicious otter attacks 96 year old man

Chimp attacks volunteer at sanctuary

Jaguar tears woman's thumb off at exhibit

Monkey loose in St. Pete continues to elude police

Poll: Should wild animals like killer whales be in captivity.

Should the video of the killer whale attack be released?

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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