A Florida family witnessed a distressing sight at Sea World on July 20 as they encountered a beached pilot whale and saw it struggle for about 25 minutes before trainers were notified and helped the animal back in the water.
Carlo De Leonibus and his wife Ashley were visiting the Orlando theme park for their daughter Catiana's 11th birthday when the incident took place.
The family was enjoying a day in the park when all of a sudden they realized a whale became stuck on the pool's edge at a time when cast members and trainers had left the stage because of a lightning storm.
De Leonibus said he went to notify a SeaWorld staff member about the situation and was told not worry.
"He said, 'Oh, it's just playing. They do this all the time. It is normal behavior,'" he told The News.
He then went back to the stands where he recorded the disturbing scene for about 30 seconds.
De Leonibus said that it took cast members around 15 minutes to come to the whale's aid. He said the audience and his daughter seemed very upset by the incident.
"She's been really disillusioned by SeaWorld," he said of Catiana.
After De Leonibus posted the video he shot on YouTube the clip became a viral sensation receiving over 39,000 views in 10 days.
A spokesperson for the theme park told told WTSP that "the pilot whales come out on the ledge all the time and always get back into the deeper water without any problem."
"The animals seem to enjoy it" he said, "and it has no effect on their health or wellbeing. The younger and more inexperienced animals -- like the one on the video -- sometimes take a little longer, because they haven't completely mastered the technique yet. The whale was never in danger."