Pilot suspects boat collision broke back of whale spotted off Port Allen

LIHU‘E — A boat is suspected of injuring a humpback whale spotted Monday morning in shallow waters off the Port Allen Airport.

However, the official cause of its apparently broken back remains undetermined, said Ed Lyman, a whale rescue expert with the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary on Maui.

“We don’t know,” Lyman said after viewing aerial images of the adult humpback. “Definitely something’s wrong with it.”

A local flight instructor spotted and photographed the 50-plus-foot cetacean, which he continued to observe until about 1 p.m. It then disappeared.

“This is one of the most disturbing sights I’ve ever experienced while photographing whales,” Gerry Charlebois said in an e-mail.

The owner and instructor for the Birds In Paradise Flight School contends a large water craft caused the injury.

“It was freaky,” Charlebois said. “The whale was bent in half. Obviously some kind of blunt force trauma on the side. The poor guy was in trouble.”