An Australian man was killed during a boating trip when a breaching whale struck the vessel in what officials describe as an “absolute freak accident.”
Stuart Collings, and his brother-in-law Darren Curmi, 53, were on a runabout boat in the waters off Botany Bay in Sydney Saturday morning when a whale breached onto the boat and sent the two men overboard, 9News Australia reported.
Collings, 61, was knocked unconscious while Curmi, 53, kept him afloat for nearly 45 minutes until the emergency crews responded to the bay.
It was “an absolute freak accident”, state Emergency Services Minister Jihad Dib said, according to Sky News.
“The runabout vessel was likely to have struck or been impacted by a whale breaching, causing the boat to tilt, ejecting both men,” NSW Police said in a statement.
Police were alerted to the frightening scene when they received reports of an unmanned boat driving in circles and seeing two men in the water.
“About 6 a.m., Water Police responded to reports two people were in the water after an unoccupied boat was found circling in waters off Cape Banks at La Perouse,” New South Wales Police said in a statement.
Video captured the runaway boat skipping through the choppy water.
Paramedics pulled Collings onto a rescue boat and performed CPR but were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Witnesses helped Curmi out of the water before he was transported to a hospital in stable condition for monitoring, police said.
People who were on the water at the time of the incident reported spotting several of the large marine mammals.
“There are lots of whales out there,” Acting Police Superintendent Siobhan Munro said.
“It is not unheard of the stories of whales breaching next to boats, which is obviously captured quite often. So this is a tragic accident but not one that I guess would be… unexpected.”
“We were fishing out there and we heard a big bang early in the morning, and then we saw a boat capsize and something big come from out of the water,” George Mourad told 9News.
Detectives have begun an investigation and are awaiting a report from the coroner’s office.
Last year, five women were killed when a whale hit an ocean bird-watching boat in New Zealand.
The remains of the five women were recovered inside the vessel.
They were part of a larger group of all-female birder watchers over 50, reports said of the September 2022 incident.