SeaWorld Orlando and family of victim move to block airing of attack video

Posted Monday, March 8, 2010 9:29 PM | Contributed by Jeff

SeaWorld Orlando and the family of a park trainer drowned last month by a killer whale are preparing for a legal battle to prevent video footage of the accident from being aired on television or online. The parties have held talks with Jon Mills, an emeritus dean at the University of Florida's Levin College of Law and a former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, about representing them in efforts to block release of video recordings of the Feb. 24 tragedy, in which a 6-ton orca pulled 40-year-old trainer Dawn Brancheau into its tank and drowned her in front of park guests.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

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Monday, March 8, 2010 9:46 PM

Yikes. It was strange enough for me to see the video of the minutes leading up to it. I can't imagine any necessity to release the actual attack footage.

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Monday, March 8, 2010 10:06 PM

It'd probably end up being one of those videos that some people really want to see, out of curiosity, but once they see it, they wish that they could unsee it.

...Something like the Nick Berg beheading video of 2004. I couldn't speak for a week after viewing that.

I will fight my curiosity and never watch any video of Dawn Brancheau's death, not only out of respect for the family, but out of respect for myself.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010 12:50 AM

Not sure I understand this fully. Who are they trying to block from releasing it? If it's a park guest, it's as good as out there, just a matter of time. Which leads me to believe it must be Sea World owned footage from one of their cameras. Don't they own the footage? If so, there's no need to worry about it. I for one don't see any benefit from releasing it. I've seen a lot of death and what it does to the people around it. I for one would not watch it. There's a family out there in extreme distress over this, no need for me to "see" why.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010 1:12 AM

It says it right in the article:

At issue is video captured by SeaWorld's surveillance cameras, which the park has turned over to the Orange County Sheriff's Office as part of the agency's investigation into the accident. SeaWorld has acknowledged that its cameras recorded the event, though the park has declined to describe the footage in detail.

The Sheriff's Office investigation, which the agency calls a routine death investigation and not a criminal probe, could conclude at any time. Once that happens, the materials it has obtained would become subject to Florida's public-records laws.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010 11:57 AM

I don't believe that the public has an absolute "right to know" everything. The only reason the sheriff's department has the video is to determine whether a crime was committed.

I don't agree with the idea that the recordings must now become part of the public record. What purpose would they serve? Revenue for news sites from every person who clicks on the video? Organizations with an agenda to make commercials and advertisements with footage or images from the incident?

Those who argue in an absolute right to know based on the first amendment (which BTW forbids only the government from denying freedom of speech, doesn't say a thing requiring individuals and private entities to make every scrap of information public) should begin with full disclosure about themselves.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010 12:12 PM

I couldn't get the article when I clicked yesterday, but now I see the issue. I hope the judge rules in favor of SW and the family. If we have the right to see anything the police retain on record at the conclusion of an investigation or trial, then could someone get a sicko who filmed himself raping and murdering a victim? I'm all for people being able to see what the government is up to, within reason mind you, but this is not reasonable. However, I have a feeling the judge is going to release it. But here's one person who will NOT be clicking on that video.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010 12:35 PM

unfortunatly a video of it has been leaked. i wish i hadnt seen it. no, i wont say where it was. it needs to be removed.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010 1:31 PM

I don't agree with the idea that the recordings must now become part of the public record.

I don't know that they "must". Rather, they will by default. But it's certainly possible to have some records sealed even after any legal actions have concluded. For example, I have produced some expert reports for an ongoing civil action. Those reports will remain sealed even after the case's conclusion because they deal with proprietary intellectual property of both parties. To make it part of the public record would be damaging to the parties involved, and so it won't be.

the Orca looks so happy and normal.

What does "happy" mean for an Orca? Or, for that matter, even "normal"?

Last edited by Brian Noble, Tuesday, March 9, 2010 1:31 PM
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Tuesday, March 9, 2010 1:55 PM

Whatever.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010 2:09 PM

Freedom of info laws are typically in place to allow citizens to check up on the government. Sometimes they get used to check up on private parties or even to satisfy folks voyeuristic tendencies. In this case, the Florida courts will need to look at the Florida public records statute and make a determination as to whether the video should be released pursuant to the Florida laws.

And the different sides to the issue each have their own motives. Dawn's family want to keep the tragic death of their daughter private (to me that is the most pure motive). Sea World wants to do that too. But it also wants to keep the video private for PR. And the news media is looking for a story. The relative merits of the business motives are less clear to me. I have no interest in seeing the video.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010 3:22 PM

Florida laws regarding "open and public records" always tend to err on the side of "the public's right to know". Whether or not it's morally just, the law here stands on the side of those who want to know. A judge often steps in to block access to certain records (child abductions being the most prevalent) - but you must fight in order to keep "public" records private.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010 4:45 PM

Whatever.

I was being serious. It's tempting to ascribe human emotions and motivations to an animal, but it's probably flat out wrong. Trying to understand "motive" or "emotional state" might not make any sense in this setting.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010 4:48 PM

I think the point was that he didn't see anything that, to him, may be interpreted as a physical cue that something was out of the ordinary.

I don't think that's an unreasonable statement.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010 5:36 PM

Even presuming that you'd expect to see something "out of the ordinary" seems like a pretty big assumption.

It wasn't this thread, but someone mentioned a quote from someone who worked with tigers to the effect of: "I work with them, and love them, but I never trust them." I would imagine that the same was true of the trainers' relationships with Tillikum, pre-accident. There's a reason that they weren't allowed to swim with him.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010 8:12 AM

Lord Gonchar said:
I think the point was that he didn't see anything that, to him, may be interpreted as a physical cue that something was out of the ordinary.

I don't think that's an unreasonable statement.

Yeah, that was exactly what I was saying. There didn't seem to be any aggressive behaviors leading up to the incident. Like I said when I removed my original statement, whatever. I don't have any science to back that up, but it just seems "off".

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Thursday, March 11, 2010 1:08 PM

I also think that it's perfectly rational to try to make sense of something that doesn't make any sense. That's what we humans do. So following up something like this with the question, what would make this interaction with the trainer one that ends this way versus the tens of thousands before it, seems normal to me.

But I have also been questioning the idea of calling this incident an attack. From the reports offered, it doesn't sound like one at all to me. It sounds like the animal (who doesn't necessarily understand that humans don't play for long in the water) was enticed to grab a ponytail as if it was a toy. Maybe not, but "attack" doesn't seem to fit this incident to me.

The prior two deaths this animal is linked to also do not seem to me to indicate attacks.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010 11:09 PM

Well, humans do it, but that doesn't make it rational. ;)

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Thursday, March 11, 2010 11:29 PM

Carrie M. said:
But I have also been questioning the idea of calling this incident an attack. From the reports offered, it doesn't sound like one at all to me. It sounds like the animal (who doesn't necessarily understand that humans don't play for long in the water) was enticed to grab a ponytail as if it was a toy. Maybe not, but "attack" doesn't seem to fit this incident to me.

If house cats weighed six tons, the playful biting and such would get way out of hand really quickly...mine don't seem to appreciate that my lack of fur makes me less-than-suitable for rough play. I'm doubtful that Tillie understood (maybe cared?) that he was drowning one of his trainers...

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Friday, March 12, 2010 12:46 AM

Problem in this case is orca was being orca. People tend to apply whatever label to that which suits their purpose.

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