(CNN) – A teenager in Australia is in critical condition after a whale jumped out of the water and landed on the fishing boat he was in.
Nick Mayhill, 18, suffered severe head and neck injuries when a whale landed on a boat off the south coast of New South Wales (NSW) over the weekend.
Marine Rescue NSW received a call Sunday after an incident off the coast of Narooma, about 200 miles south of Sydney.
According to a Facebook post from the New Zealand Police Command, “the 39-year-old male skipper reported that his 18-year-old male passenger had suffered a serious head injury.” The older man, Myhill’s stepfather, told rescuers he was trying to get back to the boat̵
The paramedics met the ship and treated both men before transferring them to the hospital, the statement said. Michael was later transferred by air to the capital, Canberra, where he remained in critical but stable condition. His father, called only Matt, was treated at a local hospital for facial tears and concussions.
The two, who live in Narooma, were on a morning fishing trip, “doing what they love,” according to a fundraising page created by Carmen Bartley, a family friend.
In a statement sent to CNN, the family said: “They did not have a warning and did not have time to react. Both Nick and Matt were injured. Matt was able to quickly bring them back ashore, using VHF (a very high-frequency marine radio) to call along the way to arrange an ambulance to meet them when the boat ramp arrived. Matt’s actions no doubt saved Nick’s life. “
Michael remains in a coma with severe head and neck injuries, the family said.
“The extent of these injuries and the long-term consequences are not yet known. “Matt and Nick are experienced fishermen and it was an accident that could have happened to anyone,” the statement said.
The family thanked the medical professionals involved in the couple’s care and added: “Nick is a strong young man and fights hard.”
Authorities are now urging skippers to keep their distance from whales during the migration season.
Marine Commander-in-Chief Joe McNulty said in a Facebook post: “The incident shows the dangers these mammals can pose to those in the water.
“In recent days, the number of whales migrating north has increased dramatically and maritime authorities have been reported to be traveling closer to shore than in previous years.
“Given its close proximity to the coastline, there is potential for spectacular whale watching, but we encourage anyone who hopes to take a closer look to maintain a safe distance, as stated in the 2017 Biodiversity Regulation.”
These laws make it illegal for anyone approaching a whale in a ship to approach closer than 100 meters (328 feet).
According to a police statement, the whale was injured in the incident, and the National Parks and the NSW Wildlife Service (NPWS) are working with the Australian Whale Rescue and Research Organization (ORRCA) to monitor it.
The whale species has not been identified in police or family statements, but Lucy Baby, deputy director and head of science and conservation at ORCA, the UK-based charity that protects whales and dolphins, told CNN that about 40,000 humpback whales often lead Australian waters at this time of year as they migrate to warmer waters in winter.
“Humpback whales are very acrobatic and are known for their disorders, which is why they are one of the best species for whale watching,” she said.
Fully bred, they are about 55 feet long and can weigh 79,000 pounds for men and a little less for women, depending on whether they are pregnant or not. They can travel up to 15.5 miles per hour, but are likely to move at a slower pace during migration, Babei said.
The disturbance can be a form of communication, she explained, with the loud sound of their tails hitting the water, warning others of danger or food in the area. However, they can also break when threatened.
“It could be his way of saying, ‘Don’t come any closer, I’m here,’ or he could get scared and jump off the road. They also break down more often if they travel with young people.
“It might just be unlucky – the whale accidentally broke through and didn’t know there was a ship there.”