A fishing trip turned fatal for two men when their boat was hit and flipped by a whale in the waters off La Perouse, about 14km southeast of Sydney, on Saturday morning.
The 53-year-old skipper was rescued from the water by another boat and taken to hospital in a stable condition, while his 61-year-old companion was found unconscious and pronounced dead at the scene.
Police said the boat was likely to have been struck or impacted by a whale breaching, causing it to tilt and eject both men. The 4.8-metre vessel was recovered and will undergo forensic testing.
The incident occurred on the first day of National Safe Boating Week in Australia, which aims to promote safety awareness among boaters and swimmers.
New South Wales Maritime executive director Mark Hutchings said that people on the water needed to stay 100 metres away from an adult whale, and 300 metres if the whale is accompanying a calf.
“Whales aren’t there to harm anyone, but those interactions can happen,” Hutchings said.
Humpback and southern right whales migrate north to warmer breeding grounds during Australia’s winter months, returning southwards between September and November. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has warned about an increased number of whales around Australian waters this year.
This is not the first time a whale has caused a fatal accident in Australia. In 2017, a woman died after being struck by a whale’s tail while snorkelling near Exmouth in Western Australia.