Whale encounter ‘could have been worse’
RACHEL Carpenter believes the terrifying whale encounter experienced by eight people aboard an A-One Fishing Charter in the Whitsundays on Saturday could have been a “lot worse”.
Ms Carpenter’s partner Oliver Galea was the skipper on board the 8.5m vessel which collided with a humpback whale described as “three times the size of the boat”.
Mr Galea, who received eight stitches in a cut to his head that exposed his skull, said the collision caught everyone by surprise.
“We were only going about 45kmh, there were no blow holes and we didn’t see any whales,” he said.
“(Then) all of a sudden it’s (whale) thrown the boat out of the water and it’s come crashing down.”
Mr Galea said no one knew what had happened until a passenger saw a whale moving away from the boat.
“Mark, the man next to me, was unconscious. It all happened so fast, it was a freak accident,” he said.
Of those aboard, four men including Mr Galea were taken to hospital.
Zambian tourist Mark Young, 48, was in a stable condition at the Proserpine Hospital, while Greg Wilson, 31, was discharged.
Another 70-year-old man was taken to hospital but was not admitted.
Ms Carpenter said while the collision was a tragedy, it was clear luck was on their side.
“It could have been so much worse – if (the boat) had capsized or if it was a fibreglass boat it would have sunk,” she said.
The boat sustained a large dent on the port side and one of the engines was destroyed.
“When I was talking to (the) insurance (company) and told them that our boat hit a whale they said ‘what?’ But they have been amazing’,” Ms Carpenter said.
“We’ve only been operating for a month and this is what happened.”
Ms Carpenter said she could not be more grateful to the emergency services on the scene and everyone involved in supporting the crew.
“VMR, the Water Police and Maritime Safety were all really awesome and just super supportive and very good with their communications,” she said.
An RACQ rescue helicopter was also diverted to the scene, but the helicopter’s crew determined the situation was too dangerous to conduct a winch of those injured and decided to follow the vessel back to Abell Point.
Mr Galea said the GPS coordinates recorded a gap when the boat left the water.
“Every charter we see whales,” he said.
“Some days you’re just sitting there and they come up.
“At first we all sort of panicked (but) we’ll be back out on the water by the end of the week.”
FREAK ACCIDENT: Passengers and crew on board the A-One Fishing Charter boat which collided with a whale are on the road to recovery.