Autopsy: Sea World trainer died from drowning, trauma

Published February 25, 2010 11:30PM (EST)

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.

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

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- The head trainer for SeaWorld says a whale that killed his trainer by dragging her underwater won't be isolated from other killer whales at the Orlando park.

Chuck Tompkins said Thursday that the whale named Tilikum plays an important role in the social group of eight whales who live at Shamu Stadium. He's the father of some whales and will continue to mate with other females.

SeaWorld says trainers will continue to interact with Tilikum but the procedures for doing so will change in the wake of trainer Dawn Brancheau's death.

The killer whale shows are on hold for now and Tompkins says they won't start again until trainers understand what happened to her.

He says the park will change safety protocols as needed but he doesn't expect drastic changes.

By Mike Schneider

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