Whale, Trainer Play on Film Before Attack

Moments before her death Wednesday, trainer Dawn Brancheau was filmed by a SeaWorld visitor playing and swaying with Tilikum, a six-ton killer whale.

She lay on a submerged ledge, her face close to his. Seconds later, he grabbed her ponytail and pulled her into the tank to her death, putting Sea World on the defensive, reports CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann.

(Watch below Dawn Brancheau with Tilikum before the attack)

"This is something we feel awful about," said SeaWorld President Jim Atchison.

WKMG: Watch Trainer with Tilikum Before Attack

With Atchison announcing that killer whale shows will resume Saturday at SeaWorld's three parks, he refused to speculate whether Brancheau did anything wrong.

"The biggest thing we're doing tomorrow and will be doing from here forward until we can reassess everything we do is we're not getting in the water with these animals," Atchison said.

Tilikum's the biggest killer whale in captivity and the most deadly, killing three people in various circumstances since 1991.

Atchison says Tilikum will stay part of the SeaWorld team.

"We would never advocate punishing an animal of ours," Atchison said. "We won't entertain that. We won't do it. It's not part of our DNA."

Shamu entertains 13 million people a year at all three SeaWorld parks, a commercial success but critics complain it exploits the whales for entertainment, reports CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassman.

"You take Shamu out of the equation, what's left standing at SeaWorld?" asked Courtney Vail. "You know, beer and the popcorn stand or petting the dolphins and feeding them fish. I don't see the research, I don't see the education, and I certainly don't see the conservation."

SeaWorld executives refuse to discuss current safety rules for killer whales and Tilikum in particular.

This weekend in Chicago, Brancheau's family will bury the trainer who gave her life doing what she loved.

Outside marine experts are part of an ongoing safety review at the park. Results could take months, but the park's president says he absolutely expects some changes.




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Move coverage of the accident at SeaWorld

SeaWorld Defends Serial Killer Whale
SeaWorld: The Show Must Go On
Ex-SeaWorld Official: Trainer Made Mistake
Dawn Brancheau's Last Moments Alive
SeaWorld Trainer Embraced Risks of Job
SeaWorld Dives into Damage Control
Trainer Has "No Fear" of Killer Whales
Tilikum Trainer Had to be Pulled From Jaws
Does Killer Whale Need a Lawyer?
SeaWorld Staff Saw Tilikum as Dangerous
What Caused Killer Whale to Attack?
  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann was named CBS News Transportation correspondent in August 2011. He has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001, and is based in the Atlanta bureau.

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