Whale-watching boat strikes whale, goes airborne and leaves 2 injured

A zodiac whale-watching boat from Prince of Whales Whale Watching in Victoria, British Columbia, was departing an area after observing a humpback whale when the vessel struck a surfacing whale and went airborne.

The vessel with 11 tourists on board was traveling an estimated 30 mph when the incident occurred Monday afternoon near Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, according to CTV News and the Victoria Times Colonist.

"It came out of nowhere … the incident happened instantaneously," Ben Duthie, operations manager for the tour company, told the Times Colonist.

It was the first time in 22 years a vessel from Prince of Whales Whale Watching hit a whale, and it was being called a “freak accident.”

"After about three minutes of the vessel transiting away from the animal that was spotted, the vessel struck what was thought to be a humpback whale," Duthie told CTV News. "That animal had not been previously observed, and happened to surface immediately in front of the vessel.

"The front of the bow went airborne and came down. Two of the passengers moved to the side and were injured. The injuries have not been disclosed at this point."

The whale-watching boat returned to the harbor where the injured passengers were taken to a hospital. One was released, the other was still in the hospital Tuesday. The captain of the boat also sustained a minor ankle injury.

The humpback whale, one similar to this one, was not believed to have been injured. Photo: Courtesy of ©Pete Thomas

It was believed the whale escaped without injury since the boat showed no signs of damage, according to CBC News, but that was conjecture.

Martin Haulena of the Vancouver Aquarium told CTV News that the whale could have suffered blunt force trauma.

"Sometimes it can be an injury that doesn't really manifest itself for a few days," Haulen told CTV. "It might not be immediately clear that there was any damage to the whale."

The incident is being investigated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Transport Canada, according to CBC news.

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