CNN airs whale movie focusing on death of Region native

2013-10-25T12:44:00Z 2014-03-09T21:50:50Z CNN airs whale movie focusing on death of Region nativeVanessa Renderman, (219) 933-3244

The opening moments in a film about whales in captivity feature a Florida 911 call placed Feb. 24, 2010, regarding a native of Northwest Indiana.

"We need S.O. (Orange County Sheriff's Office) to respond for a dead person at SeaWorld. A whale has eaten one of the trainers."

The trainer was Cedar Lake native and 1987 Andrean High School graduate Dawn Brancheau (maiden name Lo Verde).

An investigation later determined the whale did not eat Brancheau, but the animal did pull her under water and inflict injuries that killed her.

Her death is featured prominently in the documentary "Blackfish," which aired Thursday on CNN and will air again at 8 p.m. local time Sunday.

The movie also looks at the history of Tilikum, the 12,000-pound bull orca that killed Brancheau and was involved in the deaths of two other humans.

Filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite interviews former marine trainers, splicing in footage of whale shows, court testimony and comments from animal experts.

In the last 10 minutes of the film, the cameras visit the annual Dream Big Walk, a local event Brancheau's family started in her memory.

Brancheau's sister Diane Gross, who lives in Northwest Indiana, is interviewed on camera and says of her sister, "She fulfilled her life."

In a written response to the film when it was released in theaters during the summer, SeaWorld officials said, "Tilikum did not attack Dawn. All evidence indicates that Tilikum became interested in the novelty of Dawn's ponytail in his environment and, as a result, he grabbed it and pulled her into the water."

The company also called the film "shamefully dishonest, deliberately misleading and scientifically inaccurate."


The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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