Trainer’s Grisly Death As SeaWorld Orca Crushed Him And ‘Violently Played With His Body’

A trainer endured a horrific death as a SeaWorld orca crushed him and 'violently played with his body'. 
Credit: ABC

A trainer endured a horrific death as a SeaWorld orca crushed him and ‘violently played with his body’. 

Keto the killer whale, who was born in 1995, has spent the entirety of his life in captivity – he’s never swam in the ocean and instead, spends his days entertaining hundreds of people at a water park in Tenerife.

His mother, Kalina, or ‘Baby Shamu’, was the first orca to be born in a SeaWorld theme park.

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Over the years, Keto has fathered three calves of his own: Adán, Victoria and Ula.

He’s also travelled the world performing, having appeared at water parks in San Diego, Ohio and Texas, before moving to the Canary Islands.

Devastatingly, after Keto’s final move, he carried out a horrific attack on a trainer.

Alexis Martínez
Alexis Martínez endured a horrific death as a SeaWorld orca crushed him and ‘violently played with his body’. Credit: ALEXISMARTINEZORCAS via YouTube

Alexis Martínez, who was an experienced trainer, was described as ‘handsome, generous, and funny’ by his girlfriend.

The 29-year-old worked with animals at Loro Parque in Tenerife and was used to working with such gigantic predators.

Martínez was reportedly instrumental in leading the marine mammals in rehearsals, however, he apparently had his concerns.

He allegedly confided in his girlfriend, saying that ‘something could happen at any time’, as per The Sun.

“My job is especially risky, and I really need to be well rested and ready,” he reportedly said.

Martínez’s concerns would come true on Christmas Eve, 2009.

Alexis Martínez
Alexis Martínez allegedly shared his concerns with his girlfriend. Credit: NC

On what at first started as a perfectly normal day, Martínez and Keto – who is owned by SeaWorld – began working on the Christmas show in the training pool.

According to a corporate incident report, the giant orca ‘appeared in a good mood’.

However, Keto would reportedly begin acting unusual.

He apparently failed to perform several of his moves correctly – still seeming calm at this point – while floating on the surface of the pool with the trainer.

Staff have since claimed that on that tragic day, Keto appeared to have deliberately positioned himself between his trainer and the stage.

At this point, the underwater stage call came and Martínez began swimming, with Keto leaning into him.

Keto the killer whale.
Keto the killer whale has spent his entire life in captivity. Credit: AC

A trainer other than Martínez then began using controls that always worked with the killer whales. However, Keto did not respond and continued to push Martínez to the bottom of the pool using his rostrum – a protrusion at the tip of a whale’s mouth that functions like a beak.

Orca Ocean assistant supervisor Rafael Sanchez said in his testimony to investigators (via The Sun): “The animal in question moved towards him and hit him and violently played with his body.”

Realising the situation was becoming critical, the trainer observing the incident began using several more signals to get the orca under control.

Temporarily, this seemed to work.

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Keto returned to the surface of the pool and took a breath, however, he would dive back down to Martínez within seconds.

Horrifically, those on site then saw Keto return to the surface with the 29-year-old on the tip of his rostrum with his mouth closed, as per the Mirror.

Martínez sank to the bottom of the pool after finally being released.

Trainers would urgently try and lure Keto into another pool, yet he reportedly resisted and began playing with the gate.

Martínez’s body was recovered when a net was released into the pool, leading Keto to swim into neighbouring water.

Alexis Martínez
Alexis Martínez suffered horrific injuries, including internal bleeding. Credit: ALEXISMARTINEZORCAS vis YouTube

Tragically, the 29-year-old had suffered horrific injuries, including internal bleeding.

Martínez’s post-mortem stated he had ‘died due to grave injuries sustained by an orca attack, including multiple compression fractures, tears to vital organs, and the bite marks of the animal on his body’.

Keto has since been described as ‘frustrated and dangerous’ by The Whale Sanctuary Project.

Just months after the death of Alexis Martínez, SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau would die at age 44 after a long and brutal attack from her orca partner, Tilikum.

Traditionally, orcas are not dangerous to humans. There are no documented cases of an orca intentionally harming a human in the wild, as per Business Insider.

The name ‘killer whale’ derives from ‘killer of whales’, not killers of people, points out Discover Wildlife.

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Written by Rosario Monachino

Rosario is a content editor at IGV who specialises in film, TV and entertainment news. He has a degree in English and Film from the University of Salford and a masters in Journalism from Liverpool John Moores University.