Man killed in whale boating incident named

Humpback Whale Breaching in front of Byron Bay lighthouse.
An adult humpback whale launching out of the water in a full breach. Picture: Getty Images.

The man who died after his boat was struck by a whale off La Perouse has been named as Stuart Collings, 61.

Mr Collings and his brother-in-law Darren Curmi, 53, were thrown in the water when a “huge” whale breached and landed on their runabout at around 5.15am on Saturday, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Mr Collings was apparently knocked unconscious and Mr Curmi clung onto him for 45 minutes until help arrived.

The two keen fishermen had been on the water in their boat ‘Rock On In’ when the whale breached.

Witnesses told The Telegraph they heard a “big bang” before the 4.8m boat tipped.

“Something big came out of the water, it was huge,” they said. “It was still dark but you could see this big black shape jump out of the water.”

At about 6am NSW Water police rushed to try to help the two men in the waters, 14km southeast of Sydney, after receiving reports their boat was struck by a whale and flipped.

Mr Collings was pulled from the water unconscious. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful and he was declared deceased, according to a NSW Police statement.

People were out fishing at the scene where the incident unfolded. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper

Police believe the men were in the water for about 45 minutes before they were spotted by another boat, Acting Superintendent Siobhan Munro said.

The men were in a 4.8 metre runabout, which was suitable for the conditions, Munro said.

She said the incident was tragic but perhaps unsurprising given whales’ tendency to “breach” out of the water.

“It is not unheard of, the stories of whales breaching next to boats, which is obviously captured (on film) quite often.

General scenes at Botany Bay where a whale breached on a boat in the early morning. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper

“So this is a tragic accident but not one that I guess would be … unexpected.”

“It is a stark reminder that, although you could be out on the water having the best day, it could quickly turn into one of the worst days.”

NSW Police minister Yasmin Catley gave the government’s deepest condolences to the family of the deceased man after the “terribly tragic” incident.

“It’s a stark reminder really of just how dangerous the water can be,” Catley said.

A second man, the skipper of the boat, was retrieved from the water and treated by NSW Ambulance paramedics before being taken to hospital in a stable condition.

It is not clear at this stage how big the whale was or if any other boats were struck.

Foreshore Road Boat Ramp at Botany remains closed as inquiries continue.

With summer on the way, anyone set to take to the seas was urged to wear a lifejacket at all times to minimise risk if an accident should occur.