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Chilling image shows SeaWorld trainer moments before she’s snatched into the jaws of trapped Orca

Chilling image shows SeaWorld trainer moments before she’s snatched into the jaws of trapped Orca

The snap would be the last ever photo ever taken of SeaWorld's star trainer.

Donning a wetsuit and crouching over the water, Dawn Brancheau was pictured leaning forward to give a killer whale some love.

The snap would turn out to be the last ever photograph of the experienced animal trainer, as moments later, she was snatched into the jaws of the six tonne and 22ft long Orca, Tilikum.

The duo regularly performed together at SeaWorld Orlando and quickly became the star attraction with their heart-stopping stunts during the Shamu show.

Despite being in charge of the largest orca in captivity, Dawn was always cool, calm and collected and had built a 'great relationship' with him, according to a senior trainer.

On 24 February, 2010, she'd performed her Dine With Shamu segment with Tilikum as swarms of visitors watched from the sidelines.

As the pair wound down their performance, Dawn was lying on a slide-out on the edge of the pool rubbing the killer whale's head as part of the end-of-show routine.

In front of hundreds of spectators, Tilikum suddenly latched onto her long ponytail and quickly began dragging his trainer into the depths while she desperately tried to struggle free.

The last image of Dawn was taken moments before her horror death.
X/@fasc1nate

But she was no match for the humungous killer whale, who thrashed her around the pool as terrified guests were ushered away by SeaWorld staff.

Despite efforts to distract him with food and nets, Tilikum kept a tight grip on his trainer for around 45 minutes - reportedly severing her spinal cord, scalping her and tearing off an arm during the attack.

The 40-year-old's body was then retrieved from the water, with an autopsy later showing that she had died by drowning and blunt force trauma.

It also showed she suffered fractures to her jawbone, ribs and a cervical vertebra.

Dawn's death soon made headlines around the world as people were left in shock that a senior killer whale trainer had become Tilikum's third victim.

Tilikum was the main focus of the 2013 film Blackfish.
Magnolia Pictures

Experts believe that the Orca had become 'psychotic' due to being kept in captivity, a claim that was echoed by the 2013 documentary Blackfish which accused SeaWorld of horrific treatment of its killer whales.

Tilikum died in 2017 after suffering a series of health issues, including a persistent bacterial lung infection.

Speaking at the time of Dawn's death, John Hargrove, a senior trainer at SeaWorld, said: "We'll never know why Tilikum made that choice to grab Dawn and pull her into the pool.

"He had a great relationship with her, and she had a great relationship with him. I do believe that he loved her, and I know that she loved him."

Dawn's sister, Debbie Frogamei, described her as 'special', adding: "We were in awe of Dawn and the way she cared for the animals and interacted with them.

"If we were at SeaWorld for the day, we attended every show that Dawn performed in.

"Watching her perform was sure to bring tears of joy for some of us. She was simply amazing."

Tilikum dragged his trainer underwater for around 45 minutes. Gerardo Mora/Getty Images
Tilikum dragged his trainer underwater for around 45 minutes. Gerardo Mora/Getty Images

Trainers can no longer perform in the water alongside captive animals at SeaWorld.

According to CBS, SeaWorld now runs a programme called 'Orca Encounter', which looks at the killer whales' role in the ocean ecosystem, behaviours that the animals exhibit in the wild, the importance of conservation to their habitat and animal welfare practices at SeaWorld.

In addition to this, all Shamu (the stage name given to orcas performing in SeaWorld shows) merchandise reportedly was slowly starting to be removed from the shelves and is now virtually non-existent within the parks.

It was also outlined in a 2017 Annual Report that SeaWorld San Diego had temporarily ceased its killer whale shows which caused a 'deterioration' in attendance.

LADbible has contacted SeaWorld for comment.

Featured Image Credit: X/Gerardo Mora/Getty Images

Topics: Animals, News, US News