'Free Willy' trainer a victim of plane crash

May 28, 2008 6:47:30 AM PDT
The deadly plane crash in Ocean County Saturday has a connection to the movie.

One of two men killed in the crash was the mammal trainer who prepared Keiko the whale in the movie "Free Willy" to be released into the wild.

Forty-one-year-old Stephen Claussen of Seattle was in New Jersey studying how proposed offshore wind turbines might affect birds and water mammals.

Plane owner John Ambroult of Easton, Massachusetts, was also killed in the weekend crash. Two other marine mammal experts, 28-year-old Jacalyn Toth Brown of Pemberton and 43-year-old Juan Carlos Salinas of Mexico City survived.

It was a cell phone call from Salinas that led State Police to the wrecked Cessna in a densely wooded area in the Pinelands on Saturday afternoon.