A “JEALOUS” killer whale bodyslams a trainer who was riding a female in front of him in horrifying footage.
Orky landed on John Sillick, shattering his pelvis
Just before, he had been riding the female killer whale Corky, making Orky ‘jealous’
John moments before disaster struck
The 26-year-old almost died, suffering a fractured pelvis, femur and ribs and was left in a wheelchair following the gruesome incident on November 21, 1987.
In the brief clip from local news, Corky can be seen leaping over John in the stunt show, while at another point, he dives off her nose in midair.
During the fateful incident, John was reverse-riding Corky while clutching her dorsal fin.
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Suddenly, Orky leaps out of the water and slams on top of John and Corky, sending all three plunging beneath the surface.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times in December 1987, a source within SeaWorld alleged that there was sexual activity involving Orky shortly before the show.
He compared the performance in this case to “riding a mare in season in the presence of a stallion”.
In the same article, animal behaviourist and marine mammal trainer Karen Pryor implied that Orky must have been angry or jealous to act the way he did.
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“You need to be able to read your animals, to see if anything is bothering them,” she said.
“Killer whales, if they get angry, the white of the eye turns red. You never want them to get that angry.”
After the incident, SeaWorld ordered trainers to stop riding the whales and stay out of the water.
In the years following, SeaWorld has greatly changed its practices and stopped holding such shows.
[Like] riding a mare in season in the presence of a stallion
A SeaWorld spokesperson previously told The Sun Online: “Trainers have not been in the water training or performing with killer whales at SeaWorld since 2012.”
They went on: “Our hundreds of veterinarians and care specialists provide world-class medical care.
“None of the killer whales in our care live a solitary life and they participate in positive reinforcement sessions daily, engaging in a range of different activities to ensure they receive plenty of physical and mental exercise.
“Additionally, the study of orcas in our care by our scientists and third-party organisations has directly informed the world’s knowledge of and ability to protect whales in the wild.”
The Sun Online has approached SeaWorld for comment.
Sillick had less than two years’ experience when the disaster unfolded.
He went on to file a lawsuit against SeaWorld alongside two other injured trainers, eventually settling out of court for an undisclosed amount.
All three former trainers had gag orders imposed on them by SeaWorld, meaning they can’t speak about their cases, and thousands of pages of evidence cannot be seen.
The horror incident was featured in the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which covers the life of the captive orca Tilikum.
Jeff Ventre, who joined SeaWorld as an orca trainer in November 1987, the same month as the incident, said in the film: “We weren’t told much about it. Other than it was trainer error.”
Sillick performing a stunt off Corky in the run-up to the horror incident
SeaWorld San Diego ended trainer shows in the wake of John Sillick’s injuries
Samantha Berg, who worked at SeaWorld in the early 1990s, several years after John Sillick’s horror injuries, told the filmmakers: “The SeaWorld party line was that there was a trainer error.”
Dean Gomersall, another former SeaWorld trainer, added: “It was John’s fault and he was supposed to get off that whale. And for years I believed that and I told people that.”
He went on: “Years later, you look at the footage and you go, you know what, he didn’t do anything wrong.”
However, the website awesomeocean.com, which has published a lengthy takedown of Blackfish, insists that SeaWorld was not at fault for putting trainers at risk and that all the blame can be attached to John Sillick.
It wrote: “None of the trainers critiquing this incident worked at SeaWorld San Diego or were present for this incident.
“The rehearsed routine called for the trainer to ride once around the perimeter of the pool on the back of the whale.
“Making a poor judgement call based on the routine, Mr Sillick decided to ride a second perimeter – facing backwards – and took the whale around a second time.
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“This act threw off the timing of the send signal given to the other whale, which performed the behavior exactly as requested, resulting in the accident, not an act of aggression.”
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