After the 2010 death of orca trainer Dawn Brancheau, SeaWorld Orlando debuted a new emergency vest on Monday to save its trainers from a potential orca attack. The vest, which becomes buoyant when a cord is pulled, also contains a small SCUBA tank and regulator so a trainer could breathe if pulled underwater by one of the whales. Orlando's Local 6 News has footage of the vests here.
This is not the first safety measure implemented after Brancheau's death to protect the trainers from the orcas -- a quick-rising floor was installed in one of the park's pools and the trainers are ordered to obey distance protocols to keep them away from the animals.
But when Local 6 asked how the vest would have impacted the attack on Brancheau, which was at the center of the CNN documentary "Blackfish," SeaWorld replied, "We don't know."
Many animal advocates have spoken out against SeaWorld trainers interacting with orcas in any capacity -- not only is it dangerous for trainers, they argue, but orca whales also suffer undue stress in captivity that cannot be mitigated by trainer interactions.