Horror of SeaWorld’s most violent orca Kandu 5 who attacked FIVE trainers – snapping one’s neck & trying to drown second | The Sun

ONE of SeaWorld California's most notorious captive killer whales once fractured a young woman's neck and tried to drown another trainer by dragging them to the bottom of her tank.

In just three years, female orca Kandu 5 was involved in five different violent incidents, including one that was captured on camera by horrified spectators, before her own grisly death.

Kandu 5 was just a calf when she was captured off the coast of Iceland in October 1977.

She was soon purchased by SeaWorld and transferred to their park in San Diego, California in December of that year.

From the offset, Kandu reportedly struggled with life in captivity and appeared to rebel against her trainers.

She became pregnant with her first calf after mating with a male orca named Winston, but tragically, it was born stillborn in January 1986, and the death seemed to trigger an escalation in Kandu's aggressive behaviour.


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A year later, two more killer whales, Orky 2 and Corky 2, male and female respectively, were moved to San Diego.

Orky and Kandu soon mated and she became pregnant with her second calf, giving birth in September 1988.

However, further tragedy was to follow, with Orky 2 dying just days after the birth of his daughter, who SeaWorld workers named Orkid in his honour.

In the space of just a few years before her own death in August 1989, Kandu was involved in five incidents involving trainers at the park, earning her a reputation as one of the most violent killer whales ever kept at SeaWorld.

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SeaWorld says that it has drastically changed its practices and that the sorts of incidents involving Kandu 5 could never take place.

A SeaWorld spokesperson previously said: "Trainers have not been in the water training or performing with killer whales at SeaWorld since 2010. 

"There have been no incidents as described in this article since these changes were made more than a decade ago.  

"Our hundreds of veterinarians and care specialists provide world-class medical care.  

"None of the killer whales in our care live a solitary life and they participate in positive reinforcement sessions daily, engaging in a range of different activities to ensure they receive plenty of physical and mental exercise. 

"Additionally, the study of orcas in our care by our scientists and third-party organisations has directly informed the world’s knowledge of and ability to protect whales in the wild."


Kandu's most notorious moment came on March 4, 1987, when she had been at the park for over nine years.

While performing alongside 10-year-old female orca Kenau, Kandu was being ridden by a young trainer Jonathan Smith, 21.

Suddenly, Kandu grabbed Smith in her teeth and dragged him to the bottom of the tank, before carrying him, bleeding profusely, back to the surface and spitting him out.

With the attack taking place in front of a shocked audience, Smith tried to keep the crowd calm by waving to them.

However, suddenly, a second orca slammed into him.

Smith continued to pretend he was unhurt as both whales repeatedly smashed into him, dragging him to the bottom of the 32-foot-deep pool during a terrifying encounter lasting almost two and a half minutes.

Among his long list of injuries were a series of cuts to his torso, bruised ribs, a ruptured kidney, and a six-inch gash on his liver.

Miraculously, he was able to escape and get out of the pool but sued the park the following March.

He claimed officials hid the "dangerous propensities of killer whales" from him and assured him it was safe to take part in the shows, even though he had no formal training.

Suing the park for fraud, battery, and emotional distress, his case was settled out of court, with a gag order imposed as part of the settlement agreement.

This was not the first warning sign that Kandu hated being captive, nor would it be the last.


Just three months after attacking Jonathan Smith, Kandu left a female trainer with a broken neck in a shocking incident.

During a practice session on June 15, Kandu landed on top of trainer Joanne Webber, 25, pushing her to the bottom of the pool.

Webber, who had five years' experience working with orcas, suffered a fractured neck when the full-grown 6,000-pound killer whale crushed her.

She later sued SeaWorld, accusing the park and its parent company of negligence and fraud.

In a lawsuit filed at San Diego Superior Court in June 1988, she alleged that she had been told the whales were "safe" and "gentle" before getting in the pool.

She also claimed that her injuries were worsened by SeaWorld workers who made her take off her wetsuit at the park and walk to an ambulance so that it wasn't damaged by paramedics who would try and remove it at the hospital.

In her suit, she alleged that 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 also claimed that staff knew the whales were "capable of uncontrollable erratic behavior, aggression, and attack," but still placed a new and "known dangerous" male orca close to the females, increasing "the likelihood of erratic behavior and attack".

As with Smith, Webber's suit was settled out of court with a gag order imposed, meaning the thousands of pages of prepared evidence from hers and Smith's case can never be seen.

The altercation was initiated by Kandu. She was asserting her dominance by going after Corky with her mouth open


On February 23, 1984, seven-year-old Kandu was performing with a young female trainer, Joanne Hay.

Suddenly, the huge orca, weighing some 4,000 pounds, took Joanne in her mouth and pinned her against a wall.

Although she was usually a good performer at SeaWorld, she had displayed aggressive behaviour towards her trainers on several occasions.

Following the incident with Joanne, she was described as a "moody" orca, and water-work involving her was kept to a minimum.


Later that same year, Kandu was involved in another incident involving a female trainer.

During a show on November 2, she briefly grabbed the legs of trainer Georgia Jones.

Thankfully, however, this time she released the trainer unhurt.

The incident took place during a Shamu show, which was the stage name used for several captive performing orcas at SeaWorld.

Beginning in the 1960s, the shows originally took their name from an orca called Shamu, but after her death in 1971, SeaWorld trademarked the name and gave it to different orcas over the years.


Just over two years later, Kandu was involved in another incident with a trainer.

During a Shamu show, she pinned trainer Mark Beeler against the wall of her pool for several seconds with her snout, only releasing him when she was called back to a stage area by another trainer.

The terrifying scenes unfolded in front of a near-capacity audience at the Shamu Stadium of almost 3,000 people.

At the time, Sea World spokesman George Stalle said that killer whales occasionally pin new trainers against walls to test their reaction to the situation.

Usually, such an occurrence will take place if a whale and trainer are unfamiliar with each other, and Beeler, although he had worked at SeaWorld for around a year, had not worked with Kandu before.

Thankfully, he was unhurt in the incident.


On August 21, 1989, Kandu's life came to a shocking, grisly end.

At this point, there were only three orcas at the park, Kandu, her daughter Orkid, and Corky, another female.

Corky became close to Orkid, which Kandu, as a dominant female, did not like, and became protective.

During the fateful final performance, Corky and Orkid were performing together in front of a packed stadium while Kandu was in one of the side back pools.

Suddenly, Kandu entered the show pool and swam after the larger female Corky, ramming into her at full speed with her mouth open.

Although Corky was okay, Kandu broke her jaw, severing a major artery in her nasal passages.

She died with blood spouting out of her blowhole in front of horrified spectators.

As SeaWorld vet Jim McBain told the LA Times at the time: "The altercation was initiated by Kandu. She was asserting her dominance by going after Corky with her mouth open.

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"It's common behavior. For the survival of any species, the stronger animal has to rule.

"The death was an unexpected shock, but the altercation was not a rare event at all. It was normal behavior."

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