Family of Slain SeaWorld Trainer Denounces Documentary

Dawn Brancheau died in 2010 after being dragged into the water by Tilikum.

Jan. 22, 2014— -- The parents of Dawn Brancheau, the trainer killed by one of SeaWorld's most famous whales, are breaking their silence – and denouncing the allegations made in a controversial documentary.

Brancheau died in 2010 after being dragged into the water by Tilikum, a 12,000-pound killer whale.

"Blackfish" chronicles the story of Tilikum. The whale has been associated with three deaths during its 30 years in captivity.

The documentary questioned whether years in captivity made the killer whale more aggressive.

In an online statement, the Brancheau family voiced support for SeaWorld, writing that Dawn would not have remained a trainer there for 15 years if she felt that the whales were not cared for.

"Blackfish is not Dawn's story. Dawn Brancheau believed in the ethical treatment of animals," the statement reads. "She loved the whales and was proud of her work as a trainer."

Blackfish producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite released a statement of his own, expressing remorse for Brancheau's family.

"I couldn't have imagined that Blackfish would strike such a national chord. As a result of the film, I know the trainers are safer and the animals stand a chance. But this also means Dawn's family had to revisit her death in the form of Blackfish, over and over again. I underestimated that and I'm sorry," the statement reads.

But Cowperthwaite still stands behind the documentary, calling on SeaWorld's leaders to address criticisms "openly and honestly in public debate."

"Blackfish exposes the truth behind a multi-billion dollar industry. We stand by our film and so do the informed audiences who have been impacted by what they've learned," Cowperthwaite said in a statement. "We invite SeaWorld's leaders to step forward and engage these issues openly and honestly in public debate. Let the public hear both sides of the argument, as we have always desired, and let them draw their own conclusions."

SeaWorld has called the movie "shamefully dishonest, deliberately misleading and scientifically inaccurate."