On 6 July 1999, Daniel Duke wanted a swim with “Tilikum” the Killer Whale at SeaWorld, Florida. Duke eluded security at SeaWorld and remained there after the park had closed. He then stripped to his underwear before jumping, falling or being pulled into Tilikum’s tank.
Duke’s body was found the next day, bruised, scratched and draped over Tilikum. The medical examiner concluded that Duke’s suffered hypothermia immediately upon entering the water and drowned.
While many parents would grieve the loss of their son privately, Duke’s parents commenced proceedings against SeaWorld seeking millions of dollars in damages and alleging that SeaWorld “offers no public warning that Tilikum can kill people who enter the water.”
In response to the suit, SeaWorld’s Executive Vice-President and General Manager, Vic Abbey said the lawsuit is “as crazy as they come… Not only was that incredibly bad judgment to try to take a dip with a killer whale but remember, this water is 50 degrees, ice-cold water.'' He also pointed out that Duke was trespassing.
One month later, Duke’s parents withdrew the claim.