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February 25, 2011
One year after a trainer's horrific death at SeaWorld in Orlando, the popular theme park is launching a new killer whale show with new safety measures.
Some critics said it may not be enough to prevent another tragedy.
With the orcas still dazzling the crowds, the horror of what happened one year ago seemed like a distant memory. Dawn Brancheau, a 40-year-old trainer, was mauled and drowned by a 12-ton killer whale named Tillikum.
Since Brancheau's death, trainers have been subject to a new set of rules. Gone are the days filled with high flying stunts, where the trainer is propelled into the sky by the whale.
Even though the trainers will be going back in the water, it will only be during training sessions.
Workers will also have access to safety bars, and pony tails must be wrapped into a tight bun.
"We've always said that we're going to work to try and get back in the water," said SeaWorld spokesman Chuck Tompkins. "We're just not there yet."
No date had been set for in-water training, but critics said the safety precautions still ignore the heart of the problem.
"They're certainly masking the issue that the whales are really bored," said John Jett, a former whale trainer. "You deprive them of all the social stimulation, environmental stimulation and expect him to do well, you know, it seems to me a recipe for disaster."
SeaWorld has teamed up with the military to develop new technology to keep trainers safe. They hope to eventually find a way to put those trainers back in the water with the whales.
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