Dawn Brancheau, with one of SeaWorld's killer whales
ORLANDO, Fla. -- SeaWorld is facing a lawsuit from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration over its trainer's safety in the water with killer whales.
OSHA investigators say killer whales have been involved in at least four deaths, including trainer Dawn Brancheau's death last year, and more than 100 less serious incidents. In a SeaWorld souvenir DVD, trainers even talk about how dangerous the whales are.
In court documents, OSHA questions SeaWorld about why they gave a special "Tilli Talk" to new employees and why the theme park cautioned trainers that anyone who got in the water with Tilikum would most likely be hurt, or even killed. SeaWorld has denied both of those claims about the whale responsible for Brancheau's death.
Changes made at SeaWorld since Brancheau's death are also a major source of controversy. In several documents, OSHA questions SeaWorld about what changes were made to protect Shamu Stadium, and why the changes were made. In response, SeaWorld says any changes made are not an admission that killer whales are dangerous. When SeaWorld top administrators were interviewed about the changes, they told OSHA they couldn't remember, even though last year they showed Local 6 several changes they made to keep trainers safe.
SeaWorld is fighting the public release of several the court documents in the suit, including the training DVD, pool designs and pictures. SeaWorld's attorneys have said making the information of the suit public will fuel animal rights organizations like PETA who could use the information to hurt the park's public image and their ability to make money.