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Tampa Bay Area Remembers Winter The Dolphin

CLEARWATER, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - The Clearwater Marine Aquarium and all of the Tampa Bay Area are mourning the loss of Winter, the famous dolphin from the Dolphin Tale movie.

Aquarium leaders say the 16-year-old dolphin passed away Thursday night from a gastrointestinal issue.

Staff at Clearwater Marine Aquarium say they are grieving the loss of Winter right now and the community is dropping off items like flowers and drawings all in memory of the incredible dolphin.

Nine-year-old J.D. Gilbert loves Winter the Dolphin and drew a picture for her after he heard she passed. It reads "That's a heart and…'love you Winter' and that's Winter," said Gilbert.

To J.D., Winter the dolphin was his friend.

"Very sad. We've been coming here for years since before Winter was here," said parent, Jesse Gilbert.

Thursday night, aquarium staff announced Winter died from complications with a gastrointestinal abnormality.

Dr. James Powell, Aquarium President, says "It's not that unusual in marine mammals. In fact, Winter had had it several times in the past and we treated it successfully. This time she didn't respond to treatment."

On Friday, J.D. and his brother, three-year-old, John dropped off flowers and drawings at the aquarium for Winter.

"Winter did so many great things for so many people. She became the most famous dolphin in the world. She will be missed," said parent, Erin Gilbert.

Aquarium officials they are learning from Winter's animal autopsy.

"With every loss, what can we do to help that loss make a difference in the future," said Dr. Powell.

Dr. Powell, says staff did everything they could to keep Winter alive.

"We're all devastated. Our staff are devastated as well. The world is so sad to have lost an animal ambassador that has inspired us all," said Dr. Powell.

The aquarium closed on Friday to allow staff to grieve, and the Gilbert family says they will always remember Winter's bright spirit.

"It's losing a loved one," said Dr. Powell.

"Remember Winter, she was so wonderful. She did so much. C.M.A. did a great job and they are going to continue to do a great job. There are going to be new challenges in the future, and they are going to overcome those. Nobody is ever going to forget Winter," said Erin Gilbert.

Aquarium staff members say they will be having a celebration of life on November 20.

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