A 29-year-old woman is in serious but now stable condition after being crushed between a mother and a calf humpback whale in what the tour operators are calling a freak accident.
The woman suffered fractured ribs and internal bleeding following the accident last weekend in the Nigaloo Reef off the West Australian coast.
She is in hospital in Perth.
Matt Winter, a spokesman for the tour operators Ningaloo Whaleshark Swim, said the Department of Parks and Wildlife was investigating.
He said the company had “fairly exhaustively” reviewed protocols and believed they had been properly followed.
“As far as we can tell it’s a freak accident,” Winter told NCA NewsWire. “It’s just one of those things that happens with wild animals in the ocean.”
He said the woman was pinned between a young whale, which was a calf last year but is now quite large, and its mother.
Winter said the mother may have been overprotective.
The whale swimming company bills itself as a once-in-a lifetime tour where humans will come face-to-face with whale sharks and humpback whales.
Tourists can also swim with whales, manta rays, dolphins, dugongs, turtles, and among corals, all shapes
Experience wonder up very close and personal swimming next to the biggest shark in the world, The Whale Shark. Or with a truly massive, truly stunning humpback whale, the company states on its website.
Our aim is simple – to delight, educate, entertain and keep each and every one of our guests (very) safe and wanting to come back for more.
Winter said it is possible the humpback whales was “freaked out” by other whales in the area or orcas.
St John Ambulance WA told NCA NewsWire the woman was “in quite a lot of pain” and was believed to have been hit by one of the whale’s tails.
According to 7News, the woman wasn’t the only person injured by the ocean giants, with many from the same diving group treated for cuts and bruises.
It is understood the company only just resumed business after COVID-19 suspended operations for months.