Lawsuit claims 10-year-old boy was traumatized from witnessing SeaWorld trainer’s death

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lawsuit: SeaWorld trainer’s death traumatized boy

ORLANDO, Fla. — A New Hampshire couple who witnessed a whale kill a trainer at SeaWorld is suing the Orlando theme park, saying their 10-year-old son suffered emotional distress from what he saw.

Suzanne and Todd Connell’s lawsuit filed Tuesday seeks unspecified damages and came a day after the federal job safety agency fined SeaWorld Orlando $75,000 for three violations uncovered during an investigation into Dawn Brancheau’s death.

The killer whale named Tilikium in February grabbed Brancheau’s long hair as she lay on a cement slab and dragged her into the pool. The cause of death was drowning and traumatic injuries.

SeaWorld spokesman Fred Jacobs said in an e-mail that he couldn’t comment on a pending lawsuit.

“We are in the process of a thorough review of our killer whale program right now and will make any changes that we feel will improve the safety of our staff and guests,” Jacobs said.

The lawsuit from the Somersworth family describes the scene as workers tried to rescue Brancheau from Tilikum’s mouth.

“There seemed to be no plan as to what to do to save Dawn,” the lawsuit said. “The SeaWorld employees were acting in an unorganized and chaotic manner.”

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