Whale en­counter ‘could have been worse’

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS - Ja­cob Wil­son & Do­manii Cameron

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.”

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

FREAK AC­CI­DENT: Pas­sen­gers and crew on board the A-One Fish­ing Char­ter boat which col­lided with a whale are on the road to re­cov­ery.

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