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Dolphin trainer found dead amidst viral video investigation

Dolphin trainer Jose Luis Barbero, who was expected to become vice president of the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, was found dead inside his vehicle at Spanish airport parking lot, a source with the Spanish National Police told CNN on Saturday. The source said the case is being treated as a suicide.

A video leveling abuse allegations at a Spanish dolphin trainer, who was due to go to work in the United States, triggered vicious condemnation on social media. Now, Jose Luis Barbero is missing.

Authorities on the resort island of Mallorca, where he currently works, are searching for the 59-year-old, Balearic Islands emergency services said Saturday.

Barbero was expected to become vice president at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, but in February, videos circulated of animal trainers allegedly hitting and kicking dolphins. Posters claimed Barbero was one of them.

The footage is grainy and dark, and faces are difficult to make out. Trainers are making fast foot and hand motions in the dolphins’ direction, but it is unclear if these are blows. CNN could not independently confirm the authenticity of the videos.

The Georgia Aquarium has cast doubt on their legitimacy and has asked consultants to investigate them. At the same time, it has put Barbero’s employment on hold, said spokeswoman Meghann Gibbons. He was originally expected to start work in Atlanta in early March.

Barbero’s employer in Spain, Marineland Mallorca, denies the allegations and plans to take legal action against Barbero’s accusers, the Georgia Aquarium said.

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