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18 Months Later, Legal Battle in Seaworld Death Continues

The incident made headlines because the unthinkable happened. When Tilikum, the largest whale at SeaWorld, killed its trainer in February 2010, people were shocked. Some still cannot fathom what caused the whale to turn on its human friend.

Today, the legal fight continues with a triangle that includes SeaWorld, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the trainer’s family. OSHA fined SeaWorld after investigating the incident, slapping it with several willful safety violations relating to dangerous conditions.

For one thing, OSHA determined SeaWorld did not adequately protect its trainers. SeaWorld is contesting that finding, and the matter will be heard sometime next week in Orlando. It calls the findings “completely baseless,” according to WESH TV’s website.

The woman’s family, meanwhile, is continuing legal proceedings to prevent a video that captured the trainer’s death from being shown to the public or at the hearing next week. The family filed a federal action that would prevent OSHA from releasing the surveillance video or photographs depicting the woman’s death.

A judge in Orange County entered a permanent injunction preventing the video from being released in December of last year.

OSHA, however, says the only video it has is underwater footage taken at SeaWorld the day the woman died. It says there is no other video, as the family contends, and it does not have other photographs.

The Department of Labor reportedly says the family’s lawsuit cannot be ruled on at this time because it has not decided whether to release the video.

With many issues yet to be worked out, it may be a while before the matter is resolved.

Source: WESH, “Hearings on SeaWorld trainer death to be held in Orlando,” Sept. 12, 2011

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