MORRO BAY, California (Reuters) --A California fisherman was killed after a large whale unexpectedly breached over his boat, smashing into
the deck and hurling him into the water, a Coast Guard official said on Tuesday.
Chief Michael Saindon of the Morro Bay Coast Guard Station said the body of Jerry Tibbs, A 51-year-old restaurant owner from Bakersfield, California,
was recovered Monday, more than 12 hours after the accident.
"I've had countless calls where boats hit whales, but this is the first time I've ever had a whale breach and hit a boat," Saindon said. "They
were just two big things in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Tibbs, the owner of Mr. Tibb's Ribbs in Bakersfield, and several companions were on a tuna fishing trip several miles offshore Sunday when the whale
breached with a spectacular leap out of the water right over their boat, a 22-foot motor vessel named the "BBQ."
Saindon said the survivors reported that the whale crash landed onto the boat deck, damaging the pilot house and throwing Tibbs into the water.
There were no other reported injuries.
"The superstructure crushed and there was damage to the rails and the transom was damaged. The whale came up out of the water, landed on the
superstructure, and slid back off into the water," Saindon said. "We found a lot of whale skin on the boat."
The Coast Guard, aided by the Morro Bay Harbor Patrol and aircraft from the California Highway Patrol, mounted an extensive search in the area but was
hampered by heavy fog. After about 17 hours, Tibbs' body was finally located and brought back to Port San Luis, Saindon said.
Saindon said the survivors were not able to identify the type of whale, which they described as "very large." Gray whales and humpback whales are
often sighted off the central California coast.
"Both gray whales and humpback whales are known to breach quite frequently," said Steven Webster, senior marine biologist at the Monterey Bay
Aquarium in Monterey, California.
"You can't talk to a whale, so we don't know why they do it. It's thought that in some instances, they are just having fun, while breaching.
Crashing and tail snapping is sometimes one male either trying to impress a nearby female, or telling the other males to clear off."