One of SeaWorld's killer whales whipped a trainer with its head while undergoing a medical procedure in a tank Tuesday, sending the woman to a hospital with what park officials called minor injuries.
The 35-year-old employee of the aquatic attraction on Mission Bay was aiding a veterinarian with a sonogram on a female orca when it whipped its head at 8 a.m., a park official said.
"The trainer lost her balance, fell over the side of the pool wall and made contact on the ground with her head," said Mike Scarpuzzi, vice president for zoological operations at SeaWorld.
Medics took the woman, whose name was withheld, to UCSD Medical Center for what SeaWorld officials called minor injuries.
The ultrasound exam the trainer was helping with was part of an attempt to artificially inseminate 19-year-old Orkid, who was born at the park, officials said.
It was the second time in five months that a killer whale hurt a trainer at the popular tourist venue.
On Nov. 29, Kasatka, a 7,000-pound female orca, dragged a handler underwater in front of hundreds of spectators at Shamu Stadium, leaving him with puncture wounds and a broken foot.
Following that episode, state investigators opined in a report that it is "only a matter of time" before a killer whale fatally injures a trainer at SeaWorld.
Park officials disputed that finding, insisting that they take numerous precautions to protect employees who interact with the huge ocean predators.
Scarpuzzi reiterated those assurances Tuesday morning.
"We will take into account all of the details of these incidents," said Scarpuzzi. "We will completely review them, and if we need to make any changes to our already world-class training and husbandry procedures, then we of course will."
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