A SeaWorld Orlando trainer managed to free herself for a short time and tried to swim to the surface after she was dragged underwater by a killer whale, but the animal thwarted her attempts by striking her at least twice, according to a final death report released Wednesday.
Dawn Brancheau, 40, had been lying on her stomach on a cement slab in three inches of water, nose-to-nose with the killer whale, Tilikum, when her long hair floated into the orca's mouth and he dragged her down.
Lynne Schaber, a SeaWorld employee, told detectives that when she saw Brancheau underwater with the whale, she knew the trainer was in trouble since the Tilikum "is a possessive animal."
"He normally keeps things that he has and will not release them," the report said.
Another SeaWorld trainer, Jan Topoleski, told detectives that he sounded an alarm when he noticed Brancheau struggling to free her hair from the killer whale's mouth. When he turned back toward Brancheau, she had disappeared underwater.