TAMPA (WFLA) — Clearwater Marine Aquarium officials specifically identified the condition Winter the Dolphin died during a Saturday press conference.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium announced Thursday evening that Winter passed away following a battle with “gastrointestinal abnormalities” meaning issues with her stomach.
Further investigation from the dolphin’s necropsy showed that Winter died of intestinal torsion, a condition in which the intestines randomly twist on themselves and block blood flow to the area. According to an aquarium official, the condition is random and can occur in any species with the organs.
It is not known if the stresses to Winter’s body caused by not having her original tale contributed to the condition.
Prior to Winter’s death, veterinarian specialists from all across the country and world worked with animal care experts at CMA in hopes of finding an option to save the 16-year-old dolphin.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium opened to the public at 10 a.m. after closing on Friday, Nov. 12, to allow the staff a day to mourn.
The aquarium has now set up an Ever Loved website in honor of the “Dolphin Tale” star which features a timeline of Winter’s life events, such as when she first wore her prosthetic tail to meeting her friends Hope and PJ for the first time. It also includes memories and condolences posted by fans of Winter, and a spot to contribute a gift to the aquarium.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium has asked for those touched by the beloved dolphin to share their stories via the Remembering Winter website.
There is a growing memorial outside the aquarium, Saturday morning dozens coming to pay their final respects with flowers, candles, and stuffed animals.
Many cards at the make-shift memorial read “You will forever be in our hearts” and “I love you”.
9-year-old Campbell Fitzgerald sleeps with a stuffed animal of winter every night. She is too emotional to talk so her mom read us the card she wrote for Winter.
“Thank you for all the joy you brought to me,” Trishia Fitzgerald said. “I really loved you. I loved watching you swim in your tank. I’m so sorry that you got sick.”
Fitzgerald said Winter’s life was full of valuable lessons for her daughter.
“About perseverance and not allowing a disability to stop you from living your best life and how about death and how to grieve animals and how they become part of your life and family,” Fitzgerald said.
CMA plans to hold a memorial ceremony on Saturday, Nov 20. More details are expected to be released soon.