A gray, or possibly humpback, whale slammed into a sight-seeing boat off of the coast of Cabo, Mexico, killing a 35-year-old Canadian tourist and injuring two others. The whale was breaching the surface to breathe, apparently unable to see the small inflatable ship, tossing the tourist overboard. According to prosecutors, it was the first death of this kind they’d ever seen.
According to the AP, despite the captain’s best efforts, when the breaching whale hit the boat, it threw the tourist overboard. A crew member and another tourist lifted her back into the boat. When it was apparent she’d been seriously injured, Mexican Navy personnel rushed her to a clinic, where she died during treatment. The official cause of death was head trauma.
Marine Captain Vicente Arturo Martinez Morale told CBC that the unnamed woman was vacationing with her husband and parents in Cabo.
The Washington Post reports that the tour company in charge of the vessel, Cabo Adventures, released a statement.
“The captain had to make a movement to avoid a whale that surfaced just in front of the boat. The whale hit one side of the boat, leaving two people injured and another passenger hurt who, unfortunately, later died in hospital.”
Two other tourists were seriously injured in the whale incident. CBC reports that one of those two has already been released from the hospital.
The small open boat is being described as “a fragile type with inflatable parts,” hardly the kind of ship that stands a chance against a breaching whale.
There were nine tourists onboard; they were heading back after a snorkeling tour.
Professor of biology Jorge Urban explained to the AP that accidents like this “are not common. Sometimes a ship will hit a whale, but we only learn about it from the scars on them (the whales).”
“This is the first time in 30 years of studying whales that I have heard about an accident like this… in which passengers are pitched into the sea, and one dies.”
Nevertheless, CBC reports that whales breach fairly often, sometimes they hit boats, and there might not be much more to it than that.
Canadian consular services are helping the family with their loss.
Likewise, Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Diana Khaddaj said, “our thoughts are with the family and friends of a Canadian citizen who passed away in Mexico.”
Although whales don’t often slam into boats, large numbers of them do come to the coast of Mexico to breed in the winter time, increasing the chances of a collision. According to CBS News, Mexico usually requires boats to stay a certain distance away from whales for safety reasons, but those rules don’t apply to the Cabo San Lucas area.
[Image Credit: Getty Images]