Family of boy who saw Brancheau drowning at SeaWorld Orlando sues park

Posted Thursday, August 26, 2010 12:38 PM | Contributed by Jeff

The family of a New Hampshire 10-year-old who watched a killer whale batter and drown a trainer at SeaWorld has filed suit against the amusement park, the Daily News has learned. Todd and Suzanne Connell, who took their son Bobby to Florida in February to celebrate his 10th birthday, say the boy looked straight into Dawn Brancheau's eyes as the doomed trainer briefly freed herself from the orca's jaws.

Read more from The New York Daily News.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 12:57 PM

Train engineers face a simliar issue when someone commits suicide by train; the majority of the time the person doing the act will stare into the engineers eyes. Needlessly to say, many people cant continue in that job once that happens. I dont know if the park is responsible but the kid probably does need some therapy.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 1:07 PM
Acoustic Viscosity's avatar

Why should the park be held responsible? The kid could have just as easily seen someone get hit by a car, or see someone attacked by a shark in the ocean. "Stuff" happens. Sorry for the kid's troubles, but I think he's better off than the woman who was attacked and now has no say in the matter.

Edit: I just pinched my finger on the release button to my filing cabinet drawer. Ouch! Who can I sue to make it all better?

Last edited by Acoustic Viscosity, Thursday, August 26, 2010 1:13 PM

AV Matt
Long live the Big Bad Wolf

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 1:29 PM
Raven-Phile's avatar

I witnessed (online) AV Matt pinching his finger, and I feel bad for him. I can imagine his pain and suffering. I'm lawyerin' up. I think I'll go after CoasterBuzz, since that's where I saw that it happened.


R.I.P LeRoi Moore 9/7/61 - 8/19/2008
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Thursday, August 26, 2010 1:33 PM

Sue solvent parties.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 1:59 PM
sws's avatar

I just finished watching shark week on the Discovery channel. I've been having nightmares. I need to sue someone.

I hate all of these silly lawsuits where people are trying to make a quick buck. Yes, it must have been awful to watch that poor trainer drown. I am sure it was disturbing for all of the spectators. They should be comped for the price of their tickets. But beyond that, sheesh.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 2:07 PM

Not only are the parents complete failures for not getting this kid the necessary counseling (he's getting some at school, but c'mon... a school counselor is not equipped to handle this), but they're showing their child that when terrible things happen, you should always try to find a way to profit from it.


Brandon | Facebook

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 2:23 PM
Jeff's avatar

Wow, all these people quick to judge. I think it's a reasonable suit, and I suspect it will be quietly settled out of court. The opinions expressed here reinforce the stigma associated with general psychotherapy. When your body is broken, you go to a doctor and that's OK, but when your head is broken, people should just suck it up and deal instead of getting help.

So it's OK to sue when you lose a limb, but not when you're subjected to something that may have lasting mental effects? Seems like a double standard to me. I've never seen anyone die in a violent manner like this, but even as an adult, I'm pretty sure it would mess with me for years to come.

Just as I have the reasonable expectation that I'm not going to incur bodily injury on a ride, I have the reasonable expectation that I'm not going to witness something horrific that will cause emotional issues for me or my kid. They have a case, it'll get settled, and that will be that.


Jeff - Webmaster/Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Twitter - Video

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 2:37 PM

I'd be inclined to agree, if I got the impression that the family was actually trying to help the kid. Maybe there are some very significant facts missing from the article, but I don't see any indication that the parents are trying very hard to "fix" him. They're having a school counselor handle it. To borrow your analogy, Jeff, that's like sending a kid with a broken spine to the school nurse and wondering why he still ain't better.

As I alluded to above, I agree - the kid needs actual therapy. If his parents don't have the appropriate insurance, perhaps they should have contacted SW and inquired about getting reimbursed for some sort of therapy. Either SW would have gladly complied, or the family would have a lawsuit that I could get behind.


Brandon | Facebook

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 3:04 PM

If I were to witness the event with my children, ages 10 and 11, I would certainly have them turn their heads as I would too. I would never want to see that happen nor do I cause a traffic jam when I see a car accident because I am compelled to look at the wreck. I just look ahead and keep driving. Yes, he may need counseling but by entering a park or a zoo or even a circus you are accepting the fact that an accident beyond anyones control can occur since you are dealing with wild animals. I feel for a child who is truly traumatized by this or anything else they have witnessed beyond their control, but life cannot be sugar-coated. If he was willing to watch along with the parents allowing him to watch, they as parents need to assume responsibility also. The parents need to remove the TV, video games, newspapers and any media source and the blind-fold and ear-plug him so he never has to be exposed to anything ever again. Oh, and a haz-mat suit for good measure. Just to be safe.


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Thursday, August 26, 2010 3:09 PM

Article isn't clear as to what the family may have tried in terms of other counseling. Maybe they don't have health insurance. Maybe it doesn't cover mental health issues. Maybe they can't afford the deductibles. Maybe they did approach SeaWorld who declined to provide any assistance. I don't see anywhere in the article addressing any of those isssues.

And at issue in the case I suspect will be whether the accident was "beyond anyones control."

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 3:10 PM
Tekwardo's avatar

but by entering a park or a zoo or even a circus you are accepting the fact that an accident beyond anyones control can occur since you are dealing with wild animals

But accepting that an accident can happen doesn't mean someone doesn't have the right to sue when it does.

I'm not sure how I feel about this particular case, not enough info, but just because there is an implication that something bad could be witnessed doesn't mean that you don't have the right to sue.

I know getting into a car that an accident beyond anyones control can occur since I'm dealing with machines and weather and the highway, but just because I know that doesn't mean I can't sue someone's insurance if they have an accident and hit me.

Last edited by Tekwardo, Thursday, August 26, 2010 3:10 PM

cebeavers.tumblr.com

Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 3:18 PM
mlnem4s's avatar

As someone who was an operator involved in a serious rollercoaster accident, I have mixed feelings on this lawsuit being brought forth by the family. In every day life we face potential trauma and things that are shocking, whether in real time or simply by turning on the tv, but does that mean every time we should receive financial compensation for it? If that be true, we would bankrupt the country.

In my case, I was a team lead working on a coaster over a busy park weekend when one partially loaded train get hit from behind by a fully loaded train. Being in the load/dispatch position I had several seconds prior to the collision to be well aware of the impending doom that was about to happen. Do I remember the looks of horror on the faces of the people in the fully loaded train knowing they were about to collide with the train in front of them? Yes, I do. Do I remember the explosion, the coasters parts flying through the air, the sparks and smoke? Yes, I do. Do I remember the screams, the guests inline verbally berating and attacking all of the ride team I was working with and the mass hysteria after the collision? Yes, I do. Have I had to live with nightmares of theme park ride accidents? Yes, 20 years later on occasion I still do. But my life didn't stop because of this incident and I was back at work the following day, somewhat depressed and still shocked but I jumped back in the saddle and went to work on another coaster. I was never offered counseling and I certainly had a case against the park who knew there was a safety issue with said coaster. In those days though people didn't look at lawsuits as an acceptable way of becoming overnight millionaires or media darlings.

I don't doubt for a second this family may have been traumitized to some degree, the incident at SeaWorld was a horrible tragic accident......but life is full of accidents every single day. Do I think the SeaWorld should offer to cover counseling services for the family? Absolutely, that would be the right thing to do. Above and beyond that though I don't think the family is entitled to any further compensation which in my opinion would open the doors to untold litigation. We all know full well the effects violent video games, television shows and movies have on children; would parents then have a right to bring legal action against all of those companies? If so, how much and where then does it all stop?

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 3:22 PM
sws's avatar

From the article:

"The Connells, whose videotape of Brancheau's final performance with Tilikum was widely used by media outlets"

I'm sorry but this does not imply that the parents have tried to shield their child from this tragic accident. If they were that appalled by the trauma, why did they videotape it and distribute it to the media.??

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 3:22 PM
crazy horse's avatar

I think they should sue the whale.....It's all his fault.:)

Last edited by crazy horse, Thursday, August 26, 2010 3:23 PM

what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard.
Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it.
I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 3:34 PM
Jerry's avatar

I'm really on the fence with this issue - I value Jeff's view on the subject, if nothing else from being so screwed up from a prior traumatic experience as a kid... I can't be around large dogs now as the parents never got me any therapy after I was attacked as a young child... The scars are real.

However - the school counselor is not adequate in most cases to deal with this....And one has to wonder if the constant TV lawyer advertisements have contributed to this issue in a negative way.

I do wish the parents approached the park first - and they still can, but it would be more palatable if they actually took that approach rather than an immediate lawsuit.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 3:35 PM
Jerry's avatar

crazy horse said:
I think they should sue the whale.....It's all his fault.:)

People can be stupid, or liars... I'm not sure which is applicable here, perhaps a bit of both...

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 4:04 PM

I'm trying to find the webpage where it says that people have the right never to experience anything bad in their lives unless they are monetarily compensated for it.

These people may have not health insurance? Hmmm, they had enough money to take a vacation from New Hampshire to Florida. Sorry, that one doesn't wash.

These people think that the whale should be set free? Hmmm, they didn't mind plunking down bucks to see him before the accident occurred. Doesn't that make them complicit in this? Sounds like they're hoping to get support from PETA in their case. Sorry again.

By the time I was this kid's age, I had lost all my grandparents, and several aunts and uncles. This was not in the day when people shuttled old and sick people off to nursing homes and you never saw them. I had gone to the viewing of a 15-year old boy who lived down the road from us who was killed in a car accident, two friends of mine each had a parent die in their late 30s/ early 40s. There was sadness and grief, but no trauma. Does everyone who was at the Dells that day when the girl was injured get to sue if they saw or heard the accident?

I don't think anybody said anything against psychotherapy here. I think the issue is that the child witnessed something bad, and the parents are expecting a party they feel is responsible to compensate them. A person can sue a driver that runs into them. But can you sue a driver who hits the car in front of you and causes you to feel traumatized?

Should this family win a settlement, it would be interesting to know what exactly they do with any money they receive? Does it all go to a therapist? Or does therapy take the form of a few trip? Hope they don't go anywhere where they can witness something bad happen.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 4:16 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

RatherGoodBear said:
I'm trying to find the webpage where it says that people have the right never to experience anything bad in their lives unless they are monetarily compensated for it.

As dickheady as it sounds (like that's ever stopped me :) ) I agree with this entirely and was ready to say the same thing until I read far enough down the thread to see someone had already said it.

Jeff said:
...I have the reasonable expectation that I'm not going to witness something horrific that will cause emotional issues for me or my kid.

Sure, none of us expect something to happen, but sometimes it does...and it's no one's fault.


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Thursday, August 26, 2010 4:29 PM

RatherGoodBear said:
I'm trying to find the webpage where it says that people have the right never to experience anything bad in their lives unless they are monetarily compensated for it.

If the family were claiming that SeaWorld did nothing wrong but their son was injured anyway and thus SeaWorld should pay, your search would be relevant. But that isn't what the family is claiming. They are claiming that SeaWorld's negligence caused their son's injury and on the basis of that negligence, SeaWorld should pay damages. How is that different from someone suing to collect damages from the person who negligently ran a red light and smashed into another car causing damages to the car and other driver? People get into accidents every day driving cars so why aren't we all assuming the risk of something bad happening to us every time we get into a car?

The family will need to prove negligence, causation and damages and address any failure to mitigate issues as well. They may lose on any or all of those issues.

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