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VIDEO: Killer whale shown almost drowning trainer

Posted at 12:13 PM, Jul 25, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-25 12:14:25-04

Video obtained under a Freedom of Information request shows a killer whale attacking its trainer during a performance six years ago.

The just-released video has re-ignited a debate over safety at Sea World.  The disturbing 15-minute tape was used as evidence in a court case accusing Sea World of putting its people in danger.

When whale trainer Ken Peters dove into the water he was ready for the finale of this 2006 Sea World show in San Diego. Instead of the planned spectacle where the trainer is launched into the air, the Orca, Kasatka, a 5000 pound female whale, grabbed him by the ankles, thrashed him around, and pulled him to the bottom of the pool.

“Ok, we have a 39-year-old male, the trainer; he's in the water stuck with one of the whales. The whales are taking him down,” was a call placed to 911.

This chilling new video that came out during a recent court case shows the whale holding Peters under water for at least a minute at a time.

"It goes on and on and must have been terrifying,” said author David Kirby, who wrote "Death at Sea World," about whale attacks at the parks. He believes Kasatka was agitated by the cries of her nearby calf.

"Imagine your baby calling and not being able to comfort have to perform a show,” said Kirby.

"We see Kasatka pull him down to the bottom, then she brings him back up and you're thinking oh my God she's not going to kill him. He's trying to remain calm you don't know what's going to happen next. Then she pulls him back down."

Frantic trainers threw a giant net in the water. When Peters finally managed to free his foot he swam for safety. Kasatka turned and came after him. Peters, now with a broken foot barely managed to get away. 

In a statement to CBS news Sea World said; "This video clearly shows the trainer's remarkable composure and the skillful execution of an emergency response plan, both of which helped result in a successful outcome with minor injuries."

Yet in their initial report, in 2006, a California workplace safety investigator stated, "If someone hasn't been killed already, it is only a matter of time before it does happen."

That happened four years later when trainer Dawn Brancheau was dragged into the Sea World pool in Orlando. Tilikum, a 12,000 pound killer whale violently shook her, breaking bones and eventually drowning her.

After that, Sea World voluntarily banned it's trainers from the water but this past May a judge ruled they have to stay out unless Sea World can adequately protect them. The park appealed but lost last week. Kirby says a big part of the park's business relies on getting those trainers back in the pool.

"Let's face it's much more spectacular to watch a show where trainers ride on these animals and are