The Orlando Sentinel reported that Scott Brancheau, whose wife Dawn Brancheau was killed by a six-ton Orca (aka, killer whale) named Tilikum at SeaWorld in Orlando, has hired Chicago injury attorneys at the firm of O’Connor & Nakos.
Although details of the (potentially) pending case are scarce, it appears as if a wrongful death lawsuit is in the works.
Dawn Brancheau was killed on Feb. 24 after Tilikum grabbed her long ponytail and dragged her underwater, where she died of drowning and related trauma, according to CBS News. SeaWorld was fined $75,000 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) but is reportedly fighting the charges.
OSHA regional administrator Cindy Coe explained the charges, acknowledging the obvious risks of working with “killer” whales:
“SeaWorld recognized the inherent risk of allowing trainers to interact with potentially dangerous animals. Nonetheless, it required its employees to work within the pool walls, on ledges and on shelves where they were subject to dangerous behavior by the animals.”
The Brancheau family and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment at first formed a united front, at least publicly, as both parties fought in court to prevent images of the accident from being publicly released.
Illinois injury lawyer Dan O’Connor, a partner in the firm representing Dawn Brancheau’s estate, declined to say whether his firm is bringing a wrongful death suit against SeaWorld but confirmed that they were indeed hired by the family. The firm’s Web site states that it specializes in “wrongful death and severe personal injury” cases.
He did comment about the OSHA fine, however:
“It’s not every day that OSHA issues a willful citation for plain indifference or intentional disregard for human life. It is clear, after reviewing the willful finding, that more of the true facts will be brought out regarding the fatal attack upon Dawn.”
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