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Tilikum, whose name means “friend” in the Native American language Chinook, has killed before – always unwittingly. Dawn Brancheau, a 40-year-old trainer at SeaWorld in Orlando, was killed by a killer whale at the beginning of a performance. Eyewitness accounts differ, but she was reportedly dragged into the water, shaken violently and kept underwater until she drowned. The whale, Tilikum, is the largest in captivity and has been involved in two fatal incidents prior to this one. In 1999, a park visitor hid at SeaWorld until closing and jumped into the pool with the whale. The man was found dead in the pool the next morning and had suffered hypothermia and scrapes from being dragged along the pool’s bottom. Eight years earlier, Tilikum was one of three whales who drowned Keltie Byrne, a 21-year-old trainer, at Sealand of the Pacific, after she slipped and fell into the pool. In 1991, a marine biology student and part-time trainer fell into his tank in Canada and was dragged under by Tilikum. The whale and two females blocked her from getting out of the pool and tossed her back and forth in the air between them like a toy. In 1999, there was a case so bizarre it made headlines around the world: A man sneaked into Tilikum’s pool at SeaWorld and his naked corpse was found the next day splayed on the whale’s back.
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