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Killer Whale? Not this time but sued anyway

The Name Killer Not A Warning Label enough?

People have many mixed reactions when it comes to SeaWorld today. Many animal related theme parks have come under this scrutiny. Some see it as a fun educational experience, and others believe that they are taking advantages of the animals that are there and keeping them in less than stellar conditions. Regardless of how you feel about the place, there’s no doubt that some do have some large, and sometimes dangerous marine creatures in captivity. In 1999, a 27-year-old Florida man named Daniel Dukes discovered this in the most tragic way imaginable.

What Happened to Daniel?

Daniel loved whales, and he had a lifelong dream of swimming with them. He went to SeaWorld and then found a hiding place where he would not be detected by the security guards. He hid until well after the park closed and then avoided detection and got into the tank that contained a killer whale named Tillikum. The whale killed Daniel, and trainers found the body on the whale’s back the next morning.

The Lawsuit

On September 10, Daniel’s devastated parents went on to sue Seaworld, in Circuit Court in Orange County, because there were no public warnings that the whale, even though it does go by the moniker killer whale, could kill people. They also said that the whale was portrayed as being friendly, and part of that is due to the fact that they sell stuffed animals of the whale. Of course, they also sell stuffed animals of sharks, and zoos sell toys of lions and tigers. It should be noted that this was actually the whale’s second victim. The first, occurred in Canada in the Vancouver Aquarium.

It Gets Stranger

According to Ocean Advocate Florida in 2013, the case might have had more to it. They had a report from a former employee who said that at the time of Daniel’s death, there was a calf at the park. Whenever there is a calf, there should be four night watch trainers who can check on the whale’s respiration twice an hour for five minutes each. If they were actually at the park and in the area with the whales, it is curious that no one could have seen anything strange happening, and that all of them would have missed a dead body in the tank.

SeaWorld has claimed that there was no surveillance footage available to show exactly what had happened. Regular security guards are supposed to stop in and check on the area as well. The guard should have checked on this particular area several times over the course of the night. Given that the whale’s previous victim’s struggles were seen and heard from a great distance in the park, it does seem rather odd that no one heard anything that was going on the night Daniel died. That said, if SeaWorld’s Claim is right then it may make sense. SeaWorld maintains that he drowned and that was the cause of his death. In fact, a medical examiner said that Mr. Dukes suffered hypothermia and drowned. This was not surprising since the water was 10 degrees Celsius. Someone who dies of hypothermia, drowning or otherwise, would often name make much noise.

The Lawsuit Outcome

In the end, the lawsuit was dropped. It happened pretty quickly after it wise filed and so it never saw a judge or courtroom. There are no further reports so it is unknown if there was a settlement f this matter quietly outside of court, or if the devastated parents simply realized that their son, working very hard to avoid being caught and getting into a killer whale tank, made a bad personal choice. Given that Daniel had taken off his cloths before he ended up in the water suggests that his being in the water cannot be blames on the whale. Further, given the cause of his death, it appears that that the whale was not a Killer… This time.

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