Canadian woman fatally injured by surfacing whale in Mexico
The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, March 11, 2015 9:07PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 12, 2015 5:56PM EDT
CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico -- A 35-year-old Canadian woman died and two other tourists were injured when a surfacing whale crashed onto their boat, Mexican authorities said Thursday.
The Attorney General's Office for Environmental Protection said two other tourists suffered "considerable" injuries when the whale breached and hit the side of the boat on Wednesday.
The office said the boat had been carrying nine tourists on a snorkel tour and quite near shore when the collision occurred. It described the vessel as "a fragile type with inflatable parts."
Photos showed the open boat -- about 25 feet (7.5 metres) long, with twin outboard motors -- apparently undamaged after the collision.
In a statement to prosecutors, the company that operated the boat, Cabo Adventures, said the vessel was returning from a trip when the whale suddenly appeared. It said the captain tried to turn the boat to avoid the whale, but the marine mammal struck the vessel.
Contacted by telephone, a company employee said the firm would not comment further on the accident.
The Baja California Sur state prosecutor's office said the collision near the beach resort of Cabo San Lucas tossed the victim into the water.
A crew member and a passenger lifted her back onto the vessel and Mexican navy personnel moved the woman to shore. She was taken to a clinic, where she died during treatment.
Prosecutors' spokesman Sergio Villarreal said the woman died from head trauma. He said it was the first death in this type of accident he knew of.
CTV News has confirmed the woman's identity as Jennifer Karren of Calgary.
John Babcock, a spokesman for Canada's Foreign Affairs Department, said that "to protect the private and personal information of the individual concerned, further details on this case cannot be released."
"Canadian consular officials in Cabo San Lucas are providing consular assistance to the family in this difficult time," Babcock said.
While officials identified the animal as a grey whale, Jorge Urban, a professor of biology at the Baja California State University who specializes in whales, said it was almost certainly a humpback whale.
Urban said such accidents "are not common. Sometimes a ship will hit a whale, but we only learn about it from the scars on them (the whales)."
"This is the first time in 30 years of studying whales that I have heard about an accident like this ... in which passengers are pitched into the sea, and one dies," Urban said
Whales surface to breathe, often unexpectedly. Collisions between whales and boats are not totally unknown in Mexico, where whales come to breed in coastal lagoons in winter. Authorities generally require boats to stay a safe distance away from whales in whale-watching areas and protected reserves, but those rules don't apply in the area around Cabo San Lucas.
In January 2014, a boat and a humpback whale collided off the coast of Baja California, injuring a U.S. tourist and three other people on board.
With files from CTV Calgary