... all documents and memos including public comments (excluding letters from children), between the National Marine Fisheries Service, Government of Canada and Sea World regarding public display permit #774 (dated October 7, 1992) and the "Tilikum cooperative agreement" (dated January 9, 1992).
That yielded a total of 1,057 pages of documents (NMFS withheld 27 pages of inter- and intra-agency documents regarding Tilikum's permit, as well as a single page related to law enforcement.) The documents include everything from SeaWorld's permit application, supporting documents, letters between SeaWorld and NMFS over Tilikum's permit and public comments received (and SeaWorld's responses), among many other topics. Most have never been made public before, and in a series of posts on The Dodo, I will take a look at some of the many details in the files which can add to or deepen our understanding of Tilikum, his involvement in subsequent deaths and killer whale captivity.
On February 20, 1991, Keltie Byrne, a trainer at Sealand of the Pacific slipped and fell part-way into the pool. As she scrambled to try and climb out, she was grabbed by Tilikum (according to eyewitnesses who appear in "Blackfish"), and pulled back into the water. Sealand's three killer whales (in addition to Tilikum, Sealand had two female orcas, Haida and Nootka) had never been "desensitized" (or trained to be accustomed) to humans in the water. Over approximately the next ten minutes, Tilikum, Haida and Nootka dragged Byrne around the pool, prevented rescuers from reaching her, and drowned her. The tragedy led to the closure of Sealand and the sale of the killer whales to SeaWorld. The question is, did SeaWorld dig deep enough into the orcas aggressive history before buying them?