It was bad enough that SeaWorld put the drowned trainer Dawn Brancheau in mortal danger by having her interact unprotected with a dangerous killer whale, but the way the amusement park continues to handle the situation is disgusting. As people come forward with information or make allegations against them, SeaWorld retaliates with personal attacks – which might be an accepted legal process, but blaming the victims just makes SeaWorld look like bullies who care more about their pocketbooks than they do about their employees. And now they are going after the family of a 10 year old boy who was traumatized by witnessing the trainer’s death.
First there were the questions about what the trainer might have done to set the animal off; Did she follow protocol? Was she careless? Whose fault is it that her hair was in reach? These are important questions of course – everyone wants to know what really happened – but the way the questions were asked made it seem that SeaWorld was looking to blame the trainer.
Then SeaWorld fired an employee, Linda Simmons, who says she was prevented from fully coopering with the federal investigation that was conducted by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). According to Simmons in an ABC news interview, “… everyone who came to work at Sea World was given what she called the “Tili talk” — a warning about the killer whale [Tilicum] that had killed a Canadian trainer in 1991 and a man who sneaked into his holding area in 1999.
“They talk to you about going into the water with Tili,” she said. “That if you go into the water with Tili you would come out as a corpse.”
SeaWorld’s response? “Sea World released a statement blasting Simons’ accusations and saying she “used the threat of negative publicity to seek a sizable monetary payment from SeaWorld in exchange for her not going public with these false allegations.”
SeaWorld’s response to the OSHA investigation? “The company on Monday blasted OSHA’s conclusions, saying they are “unsupported by any evidence or precedent and reflect a fundamental lack of understanding of the safety requirements associated with marine mammal care.”
SeaWorld’s response to the distraught family of the deceased trainer who are now contemplating a lawsuit? SeaWorld implies that the family is somehow ungrateful because SeaWorld…”continues to work with family members on a charitable fund organized in honor of Dawn Brancheau, providing office space and administrative support for a nephew of Brancheau’s who is overseeing the fund.
“We have done everything in our power to support Scott Brancheau and other members of Dawn’s family throughout this difficult time,” SeaWorld spokesman Fred Jacobs said.
But in a whole new low, SeaWorld is accusing the family of a traumatized boy of frivolous greed.
Todd and Suzanne Connell, who took their son Bobby to Florida in February to celebrate his 10th birthday, say the boy looked straight into Dawn Brancheau’s eyes as the doomed trainer briefly freed herself from the orca’s jaws.
Bobby Connell “saw the look of horror and desperation on Dawn’s face as she was swimming for her life,” the complaint reads.
“He then saw Tilikum violently yank her down again to the depths of the pool.”
The boy, who became hysterical as Brancheau’s broken body was dragged around the tank, has been plagued by gruesome nightmares ever since, the family says.
…They also say SeaWorld managers were rude and dismissive when they brought their crying child to the guest services area.
“SeaWorld has got to understand that there has got to be a result to their actions,” (attorney) Overchuck said. “It might not seem like a big deal to them that this 10-year-old has nightmares, but it’s a big deal to his mom.”
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2010/08/26/2010-08-26_family_sues_seaworld.html#ixzz0xv6MpGv8)
SeaWorld’s response? They claim that the boy’s family tried to blackmail them: …”that a different attorney called the theme park earlier this year and threatened that they would take their story to “The Oprah Winfrey Show” if the theme park didn’t pay them $5,000.” (A story the boy’s family denies). (http://www.wesh.com/r/24783579/detail.html
In the midst of all this, SeaWorld is desperately trying to repackage itself as an educational facility. If what they want to teach us is that SeaWorld is a cold, uncaring corporation that endangers its employees, blames victims for their misfortune, and keeps large animals in inhumane conditions, they have succeeded.