OSHA fines SeaWorld $75,000 in death of trainer

By Associated Press
Tuesday, August 24, 2010; A02

ORLANDO -- The federal job safety agency fined SeaWorld Orlando $75,000 on Monday for three violations uncovered while investigating the death of a trainer who was grabbed by a killer whale and dragged underwater in February.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration categorized the most serious violation as "willful," or showing indifference or intentional disregard for employee safety. That citation, carrying a $70,000 penalty, was for exposing workers to drowning hazards when interacting with killer whales.

The agency proposes not allowing trainers to have physical contact with Tilikum, the killer whale involved in trainer Dawn Brancheau's death, unless protected by a barrier.

The OSHA report described Tilikum as having "known aggressive tendencies."

Sea World trainers were forbidden from getting into the water with Tilikum because of previous deaths. But the killer whale grabbed Brancheau's long hair as she laid on her stomach on a concrete slab in three inches of water. The cause of death was drowning and traumatic injuries.

The second citation, deemed serious, was for failing to install a stairway railing system next to the stage in Shamu Stadium. That citation carried a $5,000 penalty.

The third citation, which did not carry a penalty, was for failing to have weather-protected electrical receptacles at the stadium.

SeaWorld spokesman Fred Jacobs said the park will contest the citations. "SeaWorld disagrees with the unfounded allegations made by OSHA today," Jacobs said in a statement.

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