"It started out, 'Oh hey, Keiko's acting a bit funny.' Then I would hear the next message and she would be a bit more worried. Then it kept going and by the end she was crying into the phone and then so was I ... just, (tears) coming down right in the middle of the airport."
Keiko had died.
Colin took it hard. "He was perfectly fit and healthy when I left, and his behavior changed very quickly. And he died on a Friday and his behavior really started to change on a Wednesday so he went very quickly. And I was very surprised."
It's believed the 27-year-old orca died of pneumonia.
Keiko was the last killer whale Colin trained. Meanwhile, his other former charge continued to make headlines.
Tilikum kills again
In July 1999, the lifeless body of a man named Daniel Dukes was found lying across Tilikum's back in a SeaWorld Orlando tank. Authorities said it was unclear how Dukes stayed in the park after closing, but that he had shown a "fascination" with the whales previously.
He drowned, and the death was ruled as accidental.
Eleven years later, in front of horrified onlookers, 12,000-pound Tilikum grabbed a hold of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau and pulled her under.
The killing sparked the making of a documentary acquired by CNN Films called "Blackfish," which explores incidents in aquatic parks leading up to the veteran Brancheau's death.
In response to the film SeaWorld said in a statement to CNN: "Blackfish is billed as a documentary, but instead of a fair and balanced treatment of a complex subject, the film is inaccurate and misleading and, regrettably, exploits a tragedy that remains a source of deep pain for Dawn Brancheau's family, friends and colleagues."
"Perhaps most important, the film fails to mention SeaWorld's commitment to the safety of its team members and guests and to the care and welfare of its animals, as demonstrated by the company's continual refinement and improvement to its killer whale facilities, equipment and procedures both before and after the death of Dawn Brancheau."
When he heard the news in February 2010, Colin Baird said he immediately feared for the orca he once trained in Canada.
"I felt badly for Tilikum, and wondered what his coming days were going be like in terms of, was he going to be secluded off to some pool just used for stud?" Baird said. "You know, there is a certain enrichment that is necessary in captivity, I mean you've got to keep these animals minds busy, you've got to keep working with them, you've got to keep them -- I wouldn't say entertained -- but active, and I wondered what kind of quality of life was he going to have after that incident whether he be relegated to some side pool and forgotten about."
He hasn't seen Tilikum in more than 20 years, but said the incident is a reminder why he got out of the business of working with captive killer whales.
"I think everyone has a better understanding of the natural world, and the intelligence and social infrastructure of these amazing animals -- and that concrete pools are not a place for them to be."
Today, Tilikum is the oldest-living orca in SeaWorld's captivity. According to SeaWorld, he interacts with other whales and makes regular public appearances during shows.