An outside investigation into the death of Snooty the manatee at the South Florida Museum made shocking findings about how lax employees were about the sea cow’s well-being.
The report, released Thursday, says that employees were aware that a panel that leads into an underwater maintenance room had loose screws, but never attempted to fix it. And it says they knew about it a week before Snooty, a popular Manatee County attraction, managed to get into the small room and drown because he was too big to turn around.
The report calls the 69 year old manatee’s death “preventable.” Museum officials call knowledge of the problem without an attempt to fix it a “communication breakdown” and apologized. They say “staff changes have been made” but won’t say if anyone was fired.
The report, prepared by New York attorney James Gesualdi, also says that in the week leading up to Snooty’s drowning, daily dives to check the tank, including the panel, were truncated or not done at all. Staff interviews done by Gesualdi found that newer staff were only aware that the maintenance area was dangerous to divers, not manatees.
There will be a memorial service for Snooty from noon until 5 p.m., September 10, at the museum.