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FWC documents shed new light on boat strike that killed right whale calf

Calf was struck by propeller and washed up on shore of Anastasia State Park

A report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the boat's engines shut off after it hit the whale.
A report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the boat's engines shut off after it hit the whale.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Documents obtained Friday by News4Jax uncover that the captain of a boat that struck a right whale calf in St. Augustine was on the phone with the U.S. Coast Guard for about 12 minutes as the vessel was sinking.

The calf was hit and killed in February and washed up on the shore of Anastasia State Park. The calf’s mother was found alive days later with similar wounds.

According to investigators with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, seven people had just finished a day of fishing when the 54-foot boat called “About Time” struck the calf.

“Coast Guard, this is About Time. We’re outside St Augustine Marina, taking on water. We hit an object in the inlet here,” the captain is heard saying in the call to the Coast Guard.

FWC documents state that the boat lost all engine power. The captain said the passengers heard a loud thud at the stern of the vessel.

The FWC determined the boat was traveling at 21 knots, which is about 24 mph. The incident was reported around 6:20 p.m.

According to the documents, a passenger told the FWC: “Once we realized we hit an object, we looked back to see a floating object we think might have been a whale, but it was dark so unsure.”

The report shows the captain was able to get the port engine started.

“We’re going to beach it right here by the Conch House and see how shallow we can get,” the captain tells the Coast Guard.

The St. Augustine Fire Department and the FWC helped rescue the men from the boat. The FWC report states that there were no injuries, however, About Time did suffer damage.

An investigator states in the report, “Based on my interviews with occupants and evidence, I find no evidence of violation of navigation rules of state statutes.”

Mariners are reminded to stay 500 yards away from right whales, when spotted. The captain said he never saw the two whales that his boat hit.


About the Author:

Brie Isom joined the News4JAX team in January 2021 after spending three years covering news in South Bend, Indiana.