SeaWorld trainer screamed ‘my neck is broken’ after being body slammed by theme park’s most violent orca Kandu 5 | The Sun

A SEAWORLD trainer was left with a broken neck and allegedly walked half-naked to an ambulance following a shocking attack by the park's most violent orca, Kandu 5.

Joanne Webber, 26, who had five years experience of working with orcas, was in the tank when the 6,000-pound mammal landed on top of her, pushing her to the bottom of the pool.

Kandu V, who had a reputation as SeaWorld's most notorious and aggressive orca, had already been involved in several incidents involving trainers before disaster struck on June 15, 1987.

John Hargrove, a former SeaWorld trainer, who appeared in the 2013 documentary Blackfish, told The Sun Online,who wasn't working at the park at the time but heard about the incident afterwards, said she was left in "excruciating pain".

He was told the trainer was left screaming "I think my neck is broken" as she tried to swim to the side of the pool to escape.

The Los Angeles Times reported at the time that during a practise session, Kandu 5 leapt into the air.


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She then landed on Webber "with the full force of 6,000 pounds, fracturing her neck and thrusting her underwater to the bottom of a 40-foot-deep pool".

Webber later sued SeaWorld in a case that was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

SeaWorld has since changed its policies and trainers are no longer able to swim with the massive mammals.

The park always insists their orcas receive world-class care and deny they are aggressive – with the animals receiving daily "positive reinforcement" along with support from hundreds of care specialists.

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In a lawsuit filed at San Diego Superior Court in June 1988, Webber alleged that she had been told the whales were "safe" and "gentle" before getting in the pool.

It said that the whale had been forced "out of sequence" by another orca in the pool which was acting erratically.

She also alleged that her injuries were worsened by SeaWorld workers who made her take off her wetsuit at the park and walk to an ambulance so that it wasn't damaged by paramedics who would try and remove it at the hospital.

In her suit, she alleged park workers "well knew that killer whales had a dangerous propensity for attacking, ramming, dragging and smashing persons located in the pool," but didn't tell her.

Webber also claimed Kandu 5 often exhibited "extreme characteristics of aggression when frustrated. She does occasionally bite and aggressively rake other whales".

Joanne also claimed in her suit that staff knew the whales were "capable of uncontrollable erratic behavior, aggression, and attack," but still placed a new and "known dangerous" male orca close to the females, increasing "the likelihood of erratic behavior and attack".

Webber settled out of court, alongside two other former SeaWorld employees, with a gag order imposed as part of the settlement agreements.

The LA Times reported that her extensive injuries included fractures to her vertebrae, contusions to the skull and scalp, and bruises on her left arm and shoulder.

A year on from the attack, two cracks in a vertebra still hadn't healed completely, the paper said, and she had lost 50 per cent of the side-to-side motion in her neck.

Her injuries came after a five month period were trainers were banned from the tanks with orcas after a series injuries.

The lawsuit argued the orcas were "capable of uncontrollable erratic behavior, aggression".

In David Kirby's book Death at SeaWorld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity, he reported that the court heard how 12 San Diego trainers were injured by killer whales in just four months between August and November 1987.

Trainers have not been allowed into the water to train or perform with killer whales at SeaWorld since 2010.

And it came two decades after Kandu's life came to a shocking, grisly end on August 21, 1989.

At this point, there were only three orcas at the park, Kandu, her daughter Orkid, and Corky, another female.

Corky became close to Orkid, which Kandu, as a dominant female, did not like, and became protective.

During the fateful final performance, Corky and Orkid were performing together in front of a packed stadium while Kandu was in one of the side back pools.

Suddenly, Kandu entered the show pool and swam after the larger female Corky, ramming into her at full speed with her mouth open.

Although Corky was okay, Kandu broke her jaw, severing a major artery in her nasal passages.

She died with blood spouting out of her blowhole in front of horrified spectators.

As SeaWorld vet Jim McBain told the LA Times at the time: "The altercation was initiated by Kandu. She was asserting her dominance by going after Corky with her mouth open.

"It's common behavior. For the survival of any species, the stronger animal has to rule.

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"The death was an unexpected shock, but the altercation was not a rare event at all. It was normal behavior."

The Sun Online has approached SeaWorld for comment.

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