The captive orca Tilikum looking at its trainers. There have only been 4 human deaths caused by orcas as of 2019, and Tilikum was responsible for 3 of them
1. On Feb. 20, 1991, 20-year-old Keltie Byrne was grabbed by three orcas while crossing a small pen at SeaLand of the Pacific. Reports indicated it was the often bullied male which was Tillikum. Despite efforts to save her the whales played with her until she died.
2. On July 6, 1999, a 27-year-old man, Daniel P. Dukes, was found dead over Tilikum’s back in his sleeping pool. Dukes had visited SeaWorld the previous day, stayed after the park closed, and evaded security to enter the tank unclothed.
An autopsy found numerous wounds, contusions, and abrasions covering his body, and his genitals had been bitten off, all allegedly caused by Tilikum. Despite numerous cameras around and inside the pool that are supposed to monitor the well-being of the whales, SeaWorld claims the event was not captured. The autopsy concluded that Dukes’ cause of death was drowning. The medical examiner reports that no drugs or alcohol were found in Dukes’ system.
3. On February 24th 2010, tourists enjoying a “Dine with Shamu” evening behind a giant glass window at SeaWorld Orlando found themselves witnesses to a spectacle they never imagined.
As his expert 40-year-old trainer Dawn Brancheau leaned over the edge of his tank during what is called a “relationship session,” the 11-ton star orca Tilikum took her in his mouth, dragged her into the pool, shook her, fractured much of her body, drowned her, savaged her, and killed her.
During the attack, he reportedly scalped her and bit off her arm. And even when SeaWorld staff members had trapped and netted him, Tilikum would not let go of the body.
Tilikum passed on January 6, 2017 at the age of 35.
Tilikum was captured off the coast of Iceland and sired 21 calves in captivity. SeaWorld now has 22 orcas at its three facilities in Orlando, Florida; San Antonio, Texas; and San Diego, California.