A whale breached a small fishing boat and sent an Australian teenage passenger into a coma.
Myhill’s 39-year old stepfather, Matt, said he tried to navigate the boat back to the ramp, though it was taking on water. Paramedics reached the boat first.
Due to his injuries, Myhill was airlifted to the capital, Canberra, where he remains in critical but stable condition. The stepfather remained at a local hospital with a concussion and face lacerations.
The family thanked the rescuing officials, and noted that, "Nick is a strong young man, and he is fighting hard."
They further extolled the stepfather’s quick thinking in light of his own injuries.
"They had no warning, and no time to react… Matt was able to quickly get them back to shore, using the VHF (very high frequency marine radio) to make a mayday call on the way, to organize an ambulance to meet them on arrival at the boat ramp,” the family said in a statement to the outlet. “Matt's actions no doubt saved Nick's life."
The two men, from Narooma, have gone fishing many times, but never experienced anything like this.Authorities are reminding other such skippers that this is whale migration season, and to stay away from these waters.
Marine Area Commander Superintendent Joe McNulty said in a Facebook post, "In recent days, the number of whales migrating north has dramatically increased, and maritime authorities have received reports they're traveling closer to the coast than in previous years… Given the close proximity to the shoreline, there is potential for some spectacular whale watching, but we encourage anyone hoping to get a closer look to maintain a safe distance..."
The whale itself may have been injured too, according to the police statement, and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is working with Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia (ORRCA) to monitor it.
While it’s not clear what species of whale leapt into the boat, Lucy Babey, deputy director and head of science and conservation at ORCA in the UK, told CNN that around 40,000 humpback whales frequent Australian waters at this time of year, as they migrate toward warmer waters for winter.
Babey further explained that humpbacks are known to breach and are very acrobatic, so they’re popular for whale watching. But the safety of distance can’t be stressed enough.
Fully grown, male humpbacks measure around 55-feet long and can weigh 79,000 pounds; a little less for females, depending on whether or not they are pregnant. The whales are known to breach either as a form of communication about impending danger or food, or if they are traveling with young.
But, said Babey, "[This accident] could also just have been unlucky -- the whale happened to be breaching and didn't know there was a vessel there."