Dawn Brancheau died tragically on Feb. 24, at age 40, after Tilikum, the killer whale she was working with, pulled her to the bottom of the pool.
The moment you met Dawn, you knew that your life had been touched by a unique, very precious person. She brought inspiration and light into the lives of all she met. Dawn was the kind of person whose very presence made those around her better. Her loss doesn't change that.
When Dawn was just a child, she visited SeaWorld with her family. On that same day, she told her parents she wanted to be a whale trainer when she grew up. Dawn held tight to that dream. But she didn't just become a whale trainer. She became one of the most dedicated and talented trainers SeaWorld would ever know.
She surrounded herself with the things she loved--her family, her friends and the animals to which she dedicated so much of her life. Dawn worked with boundless energy and service for her friends, her colleagues and the tens of millions of SeaWorld guests she captivated and inspired through her performances. What greater expression of love is there than that?
While her light will be greatly missed, the way she lived her life will never be forgotten by those who knew her.
Tompkins is head of animal training for all SeaWorld parks