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5 students on whale watch boat hurt by wave

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Published on May 17, 2011 in The Boston Globe, page B2

Five Barnstable High students sustained minor injuries when a rogue wave struck their whale watch tour boat yesterday, officials said.

At 10:23 a.m., about an hour into the students’ tour, the Coast Guard received a notification from the Barnstable-based vessel Whale Watcher that a wave between 5 and 7 feet had hit the boat, according to Petty Officer Connie Terrell, a Coast Guard spokeswoman.

The injured students were taken to Cape Cod Hospital, Terrell said. Patrick Clark, the Barnstable High School principal, said two of the students were released from the hospital yesterday afternoon, and that the rest were expected to go home some time yesterday.

The episode began when the boat was about 5 miles away from Race Point in Provincetown, and the captain noticed a wave much larger than the rest heading toward the vessel, said Jack Hill, managing partner of Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises.

The captain told the 47 students on board to hang on or go inside, but 15 to 20 were still on the bow when the wave hit, Hill said.

“This wave was a surprise, and caught everybody by surprise, but those hanging on were fine,” he said.

The five injured students sustained minor injuries, with one student injuring her knee and another requiring stitches on her chin or lip, Clark said.

“All things being equal, I think we’re kind of counting our blessings that these injuries, while difficult for the kids and their families, aren’t anything life threatening,” he said.

The tour was part of the students’ marine biology and ecology class.

Provincetown authorities were alerted at 10:36 a.m. and met the 106-foot boat when it arrived at MacMillan Pier, taking the injured students to the hospital. Coast Guard officials boarded the boat, where they interviewed the captain and crew, and traveled back with the remaining students to Barnstable.

Since Whale Watcher began about 30 years ago, Hill said this was the most severe accident that has occurred on a boat.

“I knock on wood when I say this, but this is the first time we’ve had more than one person hurt at one particular time,” he said. “In the past, there has been an elderly person that might fall or something like that, but the incidents are isolated, and there haven’t been that many either. We try to be vigilant and keep our passengers safe.”

The Coast Guard reported the seas at about 6 feet, and winds ranged from 31 to 35 miles per hour. Several other whale watch companies canceled some or all of their tours yesterday.

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Written by jdunccc

May 17, 2011 at 9:48 am

Posted in The Boston Globe

Tagged with , ,