No decision on video, images of SeaWorld death

ORLANDO — An Orange County Circuit Court judge heard arguments Wednesday about whether videos and photographs depicting the death of a SeaWorld Orlando trainer killed by a whale should permanently remain out of the public eye, but did not making a ruling

Dawn Brancheau’s husband, mother and brother attended the hearing.

Circuit Judge Lawrence Kirkwood last week granted a temporary restraining order against the Medical Examiner’s Office and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, which prevents the release of the video recordings and photos.

The Sheriff’s Office is investigating Brancheau’s Feb. 24 death at the park.

At Wednesday’s hearing, the Brancheau family’s attorney and a lawyer for the Orlando Sentinel told Kirkwood they are trying to work out an arrangement.

In the meantime, the family’s attorney, Jon Mills, said he wants an extension of the temporary injunction.

“There is no doubt this family has standing to be protected in Florida,” he said. “Families have privacy rights.”

SeaWorld lawyer Greg Herbert said his company supports the family.

“In this case, in light of the nature of these videos and in light of the reality of what goes on Internet, the risk is too high to allow the release of these videos,” he said.

Kirkwood did not make a ruling.

At issue are photographs taken by Orange County deputies and SeaWorld video that park officials turned over to the Sheriff’s Office after the orca grabbed Brancheau by her ponytail, pulled her into the water and then drowned her.

The video records include an underwater view from a camera in a window in the pool and an overhead view from a camera mounted on the park’s Sky Tower, according to the Brancheau family’s complaint.

The underwater view doesn’t show Brancheau until after she enters the water, the complaint said. The Sky Tower camera wasn’t aimed at the scene until after the incident occurred.

Neither video shows events leading up to Brancheau being pulled into the water, according to the complaint.

“What the videos do depict is Mrs. Brancheau’s drowning and her lifeless body,” the complaint said.

Brancheau’s husband, Scott Brancheau, wrote in an affidavit that the release of the images “will cause me untold anguish, grief and pain.”

Evidence collected by the Sheriff’s Office as part of its investigation into Brancheau’s death become public record under state law.