CHICAGO (CBS) — A killer whale whose treatment spurred the downward spiral of Sea World in Orlando, after killing a trainer from northwest Indiana, has died.
Tilikum was the inspiration for the documentary “Blackfish” after the massive orca killed trainer Dawn Brancheau, of Cedar Lake, Indiana, during a performance in 2010.
The crowd was shocked as Tilikum repeatedly battered Brancheau. The killer whale also was responsible for the death of a part-time trainer at Sealand of the Pacific in Canada in 1992, and killed a naked man who had sneaked into a breeding tank in SeaWorld at night in 1999.
Brancheau’s death led to rules prohibiting trainers from being in the water with killer whales.
“Blackfish” created a major outcry over keeping orcas in captivity, and caused financial problems for SeaWorld, which is set to hold its final theatrical killer whale show on Sunday. SeaWorld also is ending orca breeding, but said it will soon unveil new more natural encounters.
SeaWorld said Tilikum had been suffering a lung infection, but said an official cause of death won’t be determined until a necropsy is performed.