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Whale slams into tourist boat off Australia

A large humpback whale injured several passengers and crew members on a charter fishing boat when it breached from below the vessel, Australian media reported. The boat's captain described it as a "freak accident."

The force of the collision threw the 8.5 meter (28 foot) boat several meters into the air, knocking at least two men unconscious, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Monday.

The vessel was carrying five tourists and three crew members returning from a fishing trip near the Whitsunday Islands in northeast Australia. One of the tourists has been hospitalized with severe facial injuries, two others had broken ribs and a third man had a broken nose.

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The captain of the vessel, Oliver Galea, received eight stiches for a deep cut on his forehead. He said that the crash knocked everyone over in "a split second" and that they did not know they were hit by a whale until they saw the animal swimming away.

"It was a very rare, freak accident," he said.

Passengers 'lucky' to have survived

The boat's co-owner, Rachel Carpenter, who was not on board at the time, said it was a miracle no one died.

"There could have been so many worse scenarios; they're so lucky they landed upright in the water and the boat wasn't capsized and nobody was thrown out of the boat," she said.

Read more: Australia protests as Japan resumes whaling

The Whitsundays is considered a whale nursery, with various species choosing the warm waters off the Queensland coast to birth their calves.

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