For 15 years, the 40-year-old had fulfilled her aspirations and was employed with orcas at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida.
She was one of the most senior and famous trainers in the world, and she had dreamed of being a trainer since she was a child.
Before attending college, Dawn spent her early working life studying animal behavior and psychology, with the ultimate goal of getting a job working with dolphins at an attraction in New Jersey following her graduation.
Two years later, she secured her ideal position at SeaWorld.
It wasn’t only in her professional life that Dawn’s affection for animals radiated.
She had two Labradors, as well as various birds, rabbits, chickens, and ducks that she had gathered as strays. Her home was filled with her beloved pets, and in her free time, she volunteered at an animal shelter.
Scott shared Dawn’s passion for the natural world.
Dawn, who joined the SeaWorld team two years ago, embarked on her career as a trainer with unwavering commitment.
Dawn, one of the stars of the attraction, was featured on billboards throughout SeaWorld. She maintained her physical fitness by swimming with the orcas in the pool on a daily basis, ensuring she stayed in top shape.
Dawn was unaware of the dangers of her job and the tragic death that occurred four years before, as she spoke about the perils of orcas swimming.
Tilikum, also known as Blackfish, was her favorite orca at the location, and the one she had a unique bond with.
Tilikum had been held captive for over 30 years and was one of the largest killer whales residing at SeaWorld.
According to all those who worked alongside the duo, their connection with Dawn was built on love and trust.
John Hargrove, a former senior trainer at SeaWorld, expressed that the motives behind Tilikum’s decision to seize Dawn and drag her into the pool will forever remain a mystery.
I loved him, she knows that, and he loved her, I believe that. She had a great relationship with him, and he had a great relationship with her.
While spectators were observing and dining at a nearby eatery, Tilikum appeared to abruptly lose control following one of their customary performances.
Dawn had climbed out of the pool and was lying close to the edge, chatting with the orca whom she had always treated as a trusted companion.
Then, Tilikum, the blue whale, dragged Dawn, who was followed by a horrified crowd, into the water by her ponytail during the attack.
The assault was extremely brutal and extended.
The official cause of Dawn’s death was drowning, as her arm was ripped from its socket and her scalp and hair were found at the bottom of the pool – a result of blunt force injury.
Her spinal column was cut and Dawn also experienced fractures in her ribs and a fractured jaw.
Equipped with nourishment and fishing equipment, the remaining instructors made frantic efforts to persuade him to separate from her, yet Tilikum persisted in holding onto Dawn and retained her lifeless form in the pool for a duration of 45 minutes, despite her demise.
Sadly, Tilikum had been accountable for the fatalities of two additional trainers many years prior to his assault on Dawn.
He was one of three whales accountable for the fatality of trainer Keltie Byrne at SeaLand in 1991.
SeaLand was shut down and Tilikum was placed for sale shortly after her demise.
After SeaWorld bought the attraction in 1999, tragedy struck again when Dukes, who had been trespassing, attacked and killed Daniel P.
Following the unfortunate death of Dawn, Tilikum spent the rest of his life in a pool that was rarely witnessed by the common people.
Reports indicate that before his death in January 2017, he would often spend a significant duration just reclining on the surface of the water.
SeaWorld declared that it would cease its practice of breeding orcas in confinement six years following the tragic demise of Dawn.
SeaWorld advocates against the practice of shark finning and the pollution of the ocean, in addition to collaborating with the Humane Society of the United States to combat commercial whaling and seal hunts.