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Killer whale attacks Sea World trainer

Story Highlights

• A Sea World trainer attacked by a killer whale is hospitalized in good condition
• The whale, Kasatka, 30, pulled the trainer underwater during a performance
• The trainer was able to calm the whale and swim to the side of the pool
• Officials said there have been no prior serious incidents with Kasatka
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SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- A killer whale at the Sea World theme park grabbed a trainer by the foot and held him underwater during a show Wednesday.

The trainer escaped and was in good condition later, park officials said.

Kasatka, a 30-year-old killer whale who is a veteran of many performances, grabbed the trainer and pulled him underwater, said Mike Scarpuzzi, head trainer at Sea World. (Watch how moms and kids felt about the attack Video)

Other trainers were able to persuade the whale to surface, allowing the trainer a breath of air, but enacted emergency procedures in place for such instances, Scarpuzzi said.

The other trainers got a net in the pool, and the trainer, who also has years of experience, was able to calm the whale, swim to the other side of the net and get out of the pool, he said.

The San Diego Fire Department received a call that the 33-year-old whale trainer was pinned at the bottom of the tank by a whale, said dispatcher Julianna Humphries.

The caller said other trainers were attempting to retrieve the man.

Scarpuzzi said there have been no previous serious incidents with Kasatka.

"She has not done this particular unwanted behavior to this extent," Scarpuzzi said.

"She has displayed unwanted behavior to some extent. ... There are times like this. They are killer whales. She did choose to demonstrate her feelings in a way that was unfortunate."

Scarpuzzi said he was dismayed that park guests had to witness the incident, which occurred in late afternoon during the "Believe" show.

The trainer was taken to a hospital, where officials reported he was in good condition.(Watch paramedics help the wounded trainer Video)

"That's the good news we were hoping for," Scarpuzzi said. He declined to identify the trainer, saying he wanted to make sure his family had been notified of the incident, but said the man had 16 years of training experience, including 12 years with Kasatka.

He said it had not been decided whether Kasatka will perform Thursday. The park has seven whales and rotate them for performances, he said.

Trainers are strong swimmers and taught to develop communication and relationship skills with the whales, he said.

Using those skills, he said, the trainer was able to calm the whale and end the incident. "It turned out exactly the way we would want it if something like this were to ever happen."

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Kasatka the killer whale circles the tank at Sea World in San Diego, California, after an injured trainer was taken away.



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