CBSN

Whale Injures Trainer At Sea World

Sea World whale with trainer's foot in her mouth, Nov. 29, 2006.
KFMB/CBS
A trainer was injured during a show Wednesday at SeaWorld Adventure Park after Shamu the killer whale grabbed his foot and pulled him underwater twice, authorities said.

The 39-year-old man was taken to a hospital and was listed in good condition, said Mike Scarpuzzi, a park official. Scarpuzzi, who oversees zoological operations, said he did not know the extent of the trainer's injuries.

"When the trainer came up to the surface a second time, (he) was able to have the whale remain calm and eventually was able to get out from the pool on his own — was able to swim out and get out on his own," Scarpuzzi told CBS Radio station KNX.

The park declined to release the trainer's name, saying some members of his family have yet to be notified. Scarpuzzi said the trainer has been working with animals for 16 years, including 12 spent at Shamu Stadium.

"His skills and techniques, and close relationship with the whale played a major role in helping the animal calm down and allowed him to eventually swim out of the pool," Scarpuzzi said.

The mishap occurred around 5 p.m. when the trainer and Shamu were to go underwater as planned. They were to emerge with the trainer jumping off the whale's nose.

"While underwater, the whale opened its mouth and grabbed his foot and kept him underwater for a period of time," Scarpuzzi said, adding he didn't know how long the trainer was kept down.

When both came up for air, the trainer attempted to calm Shamu by gently rubbing it, but the whale took him down a second time. The whale eventually released his grip, and the trainer managed to swim away.

According to the SeaWorld's Web site, a show at 4:30 p.m. "blends new killer whale behaviors with elaborate set pieces, music, choreography and state-of-the-art multimedia." The show is set to music recorded by the Czech Philharmonic Opera.