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The family of a killer whale trainer who was killed by one of the animals back in 2010 at SeaWorld Orlando have revealed how they are coping nearly 12 years on.
Dawn Brancheau died after being attacked by a 5.4 tonne bull orca that was over 22-feet in length on 24 February 2010.
No one knew what had happened until it was too late and Dawn had already been killed by the whale, called Tilikum, who had grabbed her ponytail and dragged her repeatedly underwater.
A police report written after the incident, which has been obtained by The Mirror, paints a harrowing picture of the events that led to Dawn's death.
Jan Topoleski told investigators: "Dawn was lying on her stomach... Tilikum was interacting with her nose to nose. Dawn's long hair floated on the water in to Tilikum's mouth."
He added that he watched as she struggled to free her hair from the orca's mouth, which was cause enough for him to turn around to push the alarm button.
But when he looked back, 5ft 1ins Dawn was nowhere to be seen.
Horrifically, her spinal cord was severed, while she also suffered from broken ribs, a broken jaw and a post-mortem revealed she died from both drowning and blunt force injury.
And now, almost 12 years on from the tragic incident, her family have spoken out about how they're still trying to get their heads around the tragic loss.
Dawn's sister, Debbie Frogameni, has spoken to The Sun Online where she said: "Some days, I think we are still processing her loss.
"Dawn was just so special to so many people and I'm not sure you ever get past losing someone like her.
"I think we do find some comfort knowing that she accomplished and experienced more in her short 40 years than most people who live long lives.
"But that doesn't take away what our family and the world lost that day."
Dawn had worked a SeaWorld for 14 years and decided on her career path which started with a passion for marine life at the age of nine.
Four years after, she watched the Shamu show at SeaWorld Ohio as a 13-year-old and knew it was what she wanted to do.
Debbie went on to add: "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."
Speaking about how the family reacted when they were told the news, Debbie went on: "I don't think any of us will ever forget where we were when we heard the devastating news. We were all in shock."
The family have now set up The Dawn Brancheau Foundation which is dedicated to improving the lives of children and animals in need, inspiring others to follow their dreams, and promoting the importance of community service.
Debbie concluded: "Part of the mission of The Dawn Brancheau Foundation is to inspire others to follow their dreams.
"Dawn followed hers and lived each day to the fullest. Now in her name, we hope to continue her legacy of improving the world."
Featured Image Credit: Tribune Content Agency LLC/Alamy Stock Photo
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