911 calls released in SeaWorld death

Trainer Dawn Brancheau killed by orca at Orlando park

ORLANDO, Fla. - Authorities on Thursday released the 911 calls made after a SeaWorld Orlando trainer was pulled into a tank by a killer whale.

Dawn Brancheau, 40, died in the incident last Wednesday. She was rubbing a 22-foot, 12,000-pound orca named Tilikum when the animal grabbed her ponytail and pulled her into the water in front of about 20 spectators.

The medical examiner said Brancheau likely died of traumatic injuries and drowning.

On the initial 911 call made from SeaWorld, a woman said she wasn't sure what was happening in the pool.

"They are at Shamu Stadium. We actually have a trainer in the water with one of our whales -- the whale that they're not supposed to be in the water with -- so we don't know what's going on. We were just told to call and have people here on standby when they get the person out," the 911 caller said.

"You don't know if the person was injured or they're having a medical problem?" the operator asked.

"No idea," the woman said. "I don't even think they're out of the water yet, they're still in there with the whale."

"OK. But someone is on scene and they are getting them out of the water now?" the operator said.

"There are people working on it, yes," the caller said. "There's about two to three dozen people over there right now."

The woman then called 911 a second time.

"Hi, this is SeaWorld, I just called. Can you let them know they pulled the AED (automated external defibrillator)?" she said.

"Say what?" a different 911 operator said.

"They pulled the defibrillator," the caller said. "So for that -- they're coming to SeaWorld for. They just pulled it out of the box. I just got an alarm."

The caller said it still was not known at that time what was happening.

The woman then calls 911 a third time, saying SeaWorld personnel were waiting for emergency vehicles to enter the theme park at Gate 3.

Earlier this week, authorities released statements from witnesses.

"I could see a woman's ponytail in the whale's mouth. He eventually went over and we got the net over him and we were able to get the body out of his mouth," said Valeria Greene, a senior trainer at SeaWorld Orlando.

Joshua Excell, another witness, also said the woman was in the whale's body.

"I was first notified by my employees that there was a trainer in the pool. I ran out and saw the whale swimming ... many times when he came up to the top I saw the body hanging out of his mouth," Excell said.

"I watched for what seemed like 10 minutes as the entire crew attempted to deploy nets. All the while the whale was frantic and periodically I could see the trainer. Eventually, they trapped both the whale and trainer in a smaller pool and shut the gate," witness Mark Burner said.

Brancheau had been training whales at SeaWorld's Orlando park for 16 years.

Brancheau's funeral took place Monday at a church on Chicago's South Side.

Services were held at St. Rita of Cascia Shrine Chapel. Family and friends lined up for Brancheau's wake on Sunday at the Chicago church.

The Rev. Thoman McCarthy said Brancheau is being remembered for the "light" she gave to her work, family, friends and faith.

Her funeral featured inspirational songs, music singer Terri Lenz was chosen to fit Brancheau and her fun-loving personality.

After the funeral, Brancheau was buried in a suburban Chicago cemetery.

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