Nightly News   |  February 24, 2010

Whale kills trainer at Florida's SeaWorld

A winter vacation outing to SeaWorld turned tragic Wednesday as one of the star attractions turned on its trainer. NBC's Kerry Sanders reports.

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>> nightly.msnbc.com.

>>> now we go to florida where a winter vacation outing to seaworld turned into an awful scene today as one of the star attractions turned on its trainer. our own kerry sanders with us from there tonight. good evening.

>> reporter: good evening. the killer whale that attacked and killed the 40-year-old female trainer in orlando today has a history of aggressive behavior. the name of this killer whale is till couple. tillikum has been involved in human deaths, another one in 1999 . it is the largest killer whale in captivity weighing over 900 pounds. this is the trainer identified as dawn brancheau and described as highly experienced. she was apparently petting the whale on its stomach and then tillikum was called out to go into the main show area instead it turned back around at a high rate of speed, flashed in the water and grabbed dawn, the trainer right there, and began throwing her around. witnesses started screaming, running in different directions. tonight the orange county sheriff 's office as well as usda are trying to determine what went wrong.

>> kerry sanders in florida for us tonight. thanks.