Alexis Martinez was performing a performance with a 6,600-pound orca named Keto when the giant creature turned on him and launched a vicious attack in front of the 29-year-old’s fellow trainers
In the weeks before his death, orca trainer Alexis Martinez confided in his girlfriend that his “risky” job was taking its toll.
He has a nagging feeling that “something could happen at any time,” she said.
Shockingly, he was right. On Christmas Eve 2009, Alexis was killed by an orca during a training session. He was only 29.
Alexis has been working with the orcas or killer whales at Loro Parque in Tenerife since 2006. He was skilled, experienced, and intuitive when it came to the huge, majestic creatures.
But when Keto, a 6,600-pound man, turned on him, he could barely defend himself.
His girlfriend Estefania Luis Rodriguez said she was initially told by park officials that Alexis’ death was an “accident”.
Months later, however, official documents revealed the true horror.
Keto, who was born in captivity in 1995, was one of four orca whales that SeaWorld loaned to Loro Parque for its Orca Ocean attraction. He had previously performed in parks across the US before moving to Tenerife in 2006.
Both an autopsy report and a confidential corporate incident report suggest that Alexis met a particularly gruesome end after a brutal attack by Keto, rather than an “unfortunate accident.”
According to Outside Magazine, the corporate incident report said Keto “appeared in a good mood” on the day of the fatal attack and was in good shape during the swim.
For the morning session, Alexis joined the whale in the pool while another trainer, Brian Rokeach, took to the stage. Other coaches were also present.
After a positive start, things went downhill – rapidly.
Alexis attempted a stand-on spy hop, a move in which the trainer stands on the whale’s pedestal or the tip of its beak as it emerges from the water. Keto showed good strength but leaned sideways, causing Alexis to fall off.
When the same thing happened on the second attempt, Alexis responded with a least reinforcing scenario (LRS), delivered a neutral response, and withheld the reward, the report said.
Next, Keto was reportedly rewarded with two handfuls of fish after following another trainer’s call from the stage to a flat ledge on the other side of the pool.
Apparently encouraged, Alexis decided to try a transport to the stage, which meant he would ride the orca into the pool and onto the stage.
It was the last routine he and Keto would ever attempt.
The whale, which reportedly seemed excited after a performance a few months earlier, dived too deep, forcing Alexis to stop moving near the bottom of the 12-meter pool.
The trainer motioned for Keto to follow his hand with his podium, then responded with another LRS once they reached the surface, the report said.
Seconds later, Keto performed his killer move.