SeaWorld trainer yelled ‘my neck is broken’ after being body slammed by most dangerous orca

Joanne Webber, 26 at the time, had been working with orcas for five years when an incident that left her with a broken neck took place in 1987. While she was in the tank, the 6,000-pound mammal landed on top of her, pushing her to the bottom of the pool.

The orca in question, Kandu V, had been involved in several incidents prior to the one Webber was hurt in.
John Hargrove, a former SeaWorld trainer who appeared in the 2013 documentary Blackfish, told The Sun Online that although he wasn’t working at the park at the time, he heard about the incident afterwards and said Webber was left in “excruciating pain.”

He added that the trainer was heard yelling, “I think my neck is broken” as she made several attempts to escape out of the pool and save herself.

According to The Los Angeles Times, during the practice session Kandu V leapt into the air before landing on Webber with its full force, “fracturing her neck and thrusting her underwater to the bottom of a 40-foot-deep pool.”

Later, Webber sued SeaWorld in a case that was settled out of court for a sum unknown.
Ever since this incident, SeaWorld forbade trainers from swimming with the massive mammals. The park also added at the time that their orcas are not aggressive and receive world-class care by a number of specialist who practice “positive reinforcement.

As per Webber’s lawsuit filed at San Diego Superior Court in June 1988, she was told the mammals were “gentle” and “safe” thus she made the decision to be inside the pool with them. The suit further claimed that staff members worsened her condition because they delayed her medical treatment by urging her to remove her wetsuit at the park so it wouldn’t be damaged by medical personnel.

Webber alleged park workers “well knew that killer whales had a dangerous propensity for attacking, ramming, dragging and smashing persons located in the pool,” but didn’t tell her. She claimed Kandu V often exhibited “extreme characteristics of aggression when frustrated. She does occasionally bite and aggressively rake other whales.”

This wasn’t the first reported cases of the same mammal attacking a person. Months prior, former SeaWorld trainer Jonathan Smith was also attacked by Kandu V, but this time another orca, Kenau, joined in. In the three minutes that the attack lasted, Smith suffered serious injuries, including bruised kidneys and ribs as well as a cut on his liver. He spent nine days at the hospital. Just like in Webber’s case, Smith’s lawsuit was settled out of court.

Despite the two attacks, Kandu V continued performing for SeaWorld until her life ended in a horrific manner on August 21, 1989.

While Kandu V’s daughter Orkid performed a show with another female orca, Orkid, Kandu V, which was in a side back pool, started ramming into Orkid at full speed with her mouth open. At that moment, she broke her jaw, severing a major artery in her nasal passages.

To the shock of the visitors, Kandu V started spouting blood out of her blowhole and died.
According to SeaWorld, Kandu V fought for dominance and her behavior wasn’t out of the ordinary. “It’s common behavior. For the survival of any species, the stronger animal has to rule,” vet Jim McBain told the LA Times at the time. “The death was an unexpected shock, but the altercation was not a rare event at all. It was normal behavior.”

In 2016, SeaWorld promised to stop breeding orcas in captivity.

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