Ashes of Winter the movie star dolphin released into Gulf

Clearwater Marine Aquarium vice president of zoological care Kelly Martin, left, and aquarium veterinarian Dr. Shelly Marquardt, release the ashes of Winter the Dolphin into the Gulf of Mexico from the back of a U.S. Coast Guard response boat, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, of the coast of Clearwater, Fla. Winter, a prosthetic-tailed dolphin that starred in the “Dolphin Tale” movies, died on Nov. 11, 2021, at age 16 of an inoperable intestinal problem. (Clearwater Marine Aquarium via AP)
caption arrowCaption
Clearwater Marine Aquarium vice president of zoological care Kelly Martin, left, and aquarium veterinarian Dr. Shelly Marquardt, release the ashes of Winter the Dolphin into the Gulf of Mexico from the back of a U.S. Coast Guard response boat, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, of the coast of Clearwater, Fla. Winter, a prosthetic-tailed dolphin that starred in the “Dolphin Tale” movies, died on Nov. 11, 2021, at age 16 of an inoperable intestinal problem. (Clearwater Marine Aquarium via AP)

Credit: Uncredited

Credit: Uncredited

The ashes of Winter the dolphin have been returned to the sea, about two months after the beloved marine mammal of movie star fame died at a Florida aquarium

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — The ashes of Winter the dolphin were returned to the sea on Thursday, about two months after the beloved marine mammal of movie fame died at a Florida aquarium.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium staff members released a Himalayan sea salt urn containing Winter's ashes into the Gulf of Mexico from the back of a U.S. Coast Guard response boat.

“Being able to return Winter to her natural home was the best feeling in the world,” Kelly Martin, the aquarium’s vice president of animal care, said in a statement. “Our goal at Clearwater Marine Aquarium is always to rehabilitate rescued marine life so they can return to the wild.

“In Winter’s case, as is the case with all non-releasable animals, she unfortunately could not complete her return to the wild in life. But today, we were able to give her that final step –- a return home.”

Winter died on Nov. 11 at age 16 of an inoperable intestinal problem. The dolphin was rescued in December 2005 along Florida's East Coast after her tail got caught in a crab trap rope and had to be amputated.

The uplifting story of Winter's recovery using an unprecedented prosthetic tail was the subject of the two Dolphin Tale films in 2011 and 2014, making the creature a hero to people with disabilities and chronic illnesses around the world.

A C-130 flyover by the U.S. Coast Guard began the ceremony-at-sea followed by the reading of a poem, aquarium staff said. The ashes were released by Martin and Veterinarian Dr. Shelly Marquardt. Flower petals of roses and orchids were released into the Gulf, and the team blew bubbles, honoring one of Winter’s favorite enrichment activities.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium will continue to honor Winter’s legacy with an onsite memorial, virtual reality experiences, and an endowment to safeguard indefinite support of the aquarium.

caption arrowCaption
FILE - Winter the dolphin swims on Aug. 31, 2011 in a tank in Clearwater, Fla. Clearwater Marine Aquarium staff members released a Himalayan sea salt urn containing Winter’s ashes into the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. Winter, a prosthetic-tailed dolphin that starred in the “Dolphin Tale” movies, died on Nov. 11, 2021, at age 16 of an inoperable intestinal problem. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

Credit: Chris O'Meara

FILE - Winter the dolphin swims on Aug. 31, 2011 in a tank in Clearwater, Fla. Clearwater Marine Aquarium staff members released a Himalayan sea salt urn containing Winter’s ashes into the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. Winter, a prosthetic-tailed dolphin that starred in the “Dolphin Tale” movies, died on Nov. 11, 2021, at age 16 of an inoperable intestinal problem. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)
caption arrowCaption
FILE - Winter the dolphin swims on Aug. 31, 2011 in a tank in Clearwater, Fla. Clearwater Marine Aquarium staff members released a Himalayan sea salt urn containing Winter’s ashes into the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. Winter, a prosthetic-tailed dolphin that starred in the “Dolphin Tale” movies, died on Nov. 11, 2021, at age 16 of an inoperable intestinal problem. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

Credit: Chris O'Meara

Credit: Chris O'Meara

caption arrowCaption
Clearwater Marine Aquarium animal care specialist Kaylee Rhieu, right, kisses the urn with the ashes of Winter the Dolphin, held by animal care specialist Allison Twedt, as aquarium staff members prepared to the release them into the Gulf of Mexico from the back of a U.S. Coast Guard response boat, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, of the coast of Clearwater, Fla. Winter, a prosthetic-tailed dolphin that starred in the “Dolphin Tale” movies, died on Nov. 11, 2021, at age 16 of an inoperable intestinal problem. (Clearwater Marine Aquarium via AP)

Credit: Uncredited

Clearwater Marine Aquarium animal care specialist Kaylee Rhieu, right, kisses the urn with the ashes of Winter the Dolphin, held by animal care specialist Allison Twedt, as aquarium staff members prepared to the release them into the Gulf of Mexico from the back of a U.S. Coast Guard response boat, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, of the coast of Clearwater, Fla. Winter, a prosthetic-tailed dolphin that starred in the “Dolphin Tale” movies, died on Nov. 11, 2021, at age 16 of an inoperable intestinal problem. (Clearwater Marine Aquarium via AP)
caption arrowCaption
Clearwater Marine Aquarium animal care specialist Kaylee Rhieu, right, kisses the urn with the ashes of Winter the Dolphin, held by animal care specialist Allison Twedt, as aquarium staff members prepared to the release them into the Gulf of Mexico from the back of a U.S. Coast Guard response boat, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, of the coast of Clearwater, Fla. Winter, a prosthetic-tailed dolphin that starred in the “Dolphin Tale” movies, died on Nov. 11, 2021, at age 16 of an inoperable intestinal problem. (Clearwater Marine Aquarium via AP)

Credit: Uncredited

Credit: Uncredited

caption arrowCaption
Clearwater Marine Aquarium vice president of zoological care Kelly Martin, right back to camera, and animal care specialist Brie Alessi embrace after aquarium staff released the ashes of Winter the Dolphin into the Gulf of Mexico from the back of a U.S. Coast Guard response boat, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, of the coast of Clearwater, Fla. Winter, a prosthetic-tailed dolphin that starred in the “Dolphin Tale” movies, died on Nov. 11, 2021, at age 16 of an inoperable intestinal problem. (Clearwater Marine Aquarium via AP)

Credit: Uncredited

Clearwater Marine Aquarium vice president of zoological care Kelly Martin, right back to camera, and animal care specialist Brie Alessi embrace after aquarium staff released the ashes of Winter the Dolphin into the Gulf of Mexico from the back of a U.S. Coast Guard response boat, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, of the coast of Clearwater, Fla. Winter, a prosthetic-tailed dolphin that starred in the “Dolphin Tale” movies, died on Nov. 11, 2021, at age 16 of an inoperable intestinal problem. (Clearwater Marine Aquarium via AP)
caption arrowCaption
Clearwater Marine Aquarium vice president of zoological care Kelly Martin, right back to camera, and animal care specialist Brie Alessi embrace after aquarium staff released the ashes of Winter the Dolphin into the Gulf of Mexico from the back of a U.S. Coast Guard response boat, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, of the coast of Clearwater, Fla. Winter, a prosthetic-tailed dolphin that starred in the “Dolphin Tale” movies, died on Nov. 11, 2021, at age 16 of an inoperable intestinal problem. (Clearwater Marine Aquarium via AP)

Credit: Uncredited

Credit: Uncredited