SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE, Canary Islands – A killer whale at a marine park hit its trainer and dragged her underwater repeatedly until it finally freed the woman with a badly bruised chest and a broken arm, park officials said Monday.
The trainer, 29-year-old German national Claudia Vollhardt, remained hospitalized Monday after her weekend scare at Loro Parque, a zoo on Tenerife, one of Spain's Canary Islands.
Vollhardt was working with a 1.5-ton male orca named Tekoa on Saturday, rehearsing a trick in which they swim together with the whale pushing her feet from behind with its snout, when something went wrong.
Tekoa slammed the woman in the chest from underneath and ended up pulling her right arm, park officials said.
Pulling Vollhardt with her, the whale submerged and resurfaced several times in the 40-foot deep tank before it finally released the instructor.
Vollhardt did not lose consciousness at any time and survived the ordeal because she is in excellent physical condition, said Loro Parque spokeswoman Patricia Delponti. She insisted it was an accident, not an attack.
"The whale did not bite her. If it had, she would have lost her arm," Delponti said.