Skip to main content

Killer whale returns to SeaWorld show

By Kim Segal and John Zarrella, CNN
Click to play
Whale in trainer death returns to show
  • Killer whale returns to SeaWorld show
  • Dawn Brancheau was killed last year by Tilikum, authorities say
  • Family says it prefers to concentrate on Brancheau's work with children

Miami (CNN) -- Tilikum, the killer whale that killed SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau last year, has returned to the stage at the Orlando theme park.

Tilikum made his first appearance in front of an audience in the morning killer whale show called "Believe" on Wednesday.

Brancheau was killed in February 2010 when the orca grabbed her ponytail and pulled her under the water, authorities said. The incident took place in front of visitors watching the show.

Brancheau died from "multiple traumatic injuries and drowning," the Orange County Sheriff's Office said at the time of the accident.

Anthony Frogameni, Brancheau's nephew, said the trainer's family did not want to comment on Tilikum's return. "From the start we've decided, it's a large family, we all have our different opinions, but we're just not going to talk about that aspect of it. We're only going to focus on Dawn," Frogameni said.

The family started the Dawn Brancheau Foundation to help children in the Orlando area who are in need. "She was all about spending her time helping other people, especially children," Frogameni added. "We figured a great way to honor her is to focus on that."

SeaWorld told CNN that a request for information on Tilikum's return must submitted in writing. At this writing, answers to the questions asked of SeaWorld have not been received.

In August, SeaWorld was fined $75,000 by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for three safety violations, including one referring to the death of Brancheau.

The agency's investigation "revealed that SeaWorld trainers had an extensive history of unexpected and potentially dangerous incidents involving killer whales at its various facilities, including its location in Orlando," OSHA said.

On this day when Tilikum is the star of the show, Frogameni said, "We want people to remember Dawn's life, not that tragic accident."

CNN's Dugald McConnell contributed to this report.