Publish date:

Boat crashes into whale off California coast, seriously injuring a woman from Minnesota

The Minnesota native now lives in Monterey, California.

A Minnesota native living in California was seriously injured when the boat she was in crashed into a whale. 

An online fundraiser says Melissa Thomas was on her way to go scuba diving with friends in Monterey, California on Sept. 30 when they stopped their boat to watch humpback whales lunge feeding.

They watched for about 30 minutes from a safe distance, but as they were leaving the area, a whale arched out of the water in front of them. 

Thomas, seated at the bow of the boat, tried to warn of the whale ahead but it was too late. The boat slammed into the back of it, sending Thomas flying.

"It felt like they hit a brick wall," says her sister, Becky Nelson Blake, who organized the GoFundMe. 

WCCO spoke to Thomas' mother, Judy Nelson of Edina, who said the humpback whale weighed around 30 tons.

Thomas was thrown backwards and crashed through the boat's windshield with the right side of her head. Fortunately, her friends were able to stabilize her and get her back to shore where a medical response team was waiting. 

Collision caused 'caused catastrophic trauma'

Thomas was transported to Natividad Medical Center in Salinas where she was in intensive care for head and upper-body injuries.

She still has very little feeling and motion in her left arm and hand due to a severe shoulder injury, in addition to suffering a broken jaw, broken rib, cracked shoulder blade, cracked clavicle, fractures to her spine and contusions to her head that required staples to shut. 

Thomas is now rehabbing with the hospital's Acute Rehabilitation Unit and has a long road to recovery due to the nature of her injuries, described as "catastrophic trauma injuries" by her neurologist.

It's unknown if Thomas will regain full control and mobility of her left arm and hand. 

"We also know that Melissa has an extremely positive attitude, and she looks forward to resuming her work life, scuba diving, underwater photography, eating without a straw, and visiting with her friends and family," the fundraiser says. 

The first thing Thomas asked about after the injury was if the whale was ok, which it was. 

The fundraiser had raised just under $5,000 as of 12:30 p.m. Tuesday. 

Sign up for our daily Bring Me The Newsletters

Next Up

money

Money Gal Coaching: Mastering the spiritual parts of money

Kelly Blodgett used her passion behind becoming debt free to launch Money Gal Coaching.

University of minnesota sign

U of M will now require proof that employees have been vaccinated for COVID

Previously, only students were required to be vaccinated.

Jim Hagedorn

Report reveals details about ethics investigation into Rep. Hagedorn

The congressman described the report's findings as "unfounded conclusions."

33462769592_d32f34fd48_k

SkyWest cancels hundreds of flights due to server error

More than 80 have been canceled at MSP Airport.

elk

First elk in more than 100 years spotted in parts of southern WI

The elk population was reintroduced to Wisconsin in recent decades.

grand marais

10 beautiful Minnesota cities to visit for outdoor adventures

These places are perfect for a day trip or a weekend getaway.

Screen Shot 2021-10-22 at 11.33.57 AM

Woman arrested after shots were fired into hotel room door in Albert Lea

The suspect was caught within minutes of fleeing the scene.

coronavirus, covid-19

Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Friday, October 22

COVID-19 hospitalizations have dropped four days in a row, but capacity remains tight.

Michael Edmund Richmond

Charges: MN man recorded himself sexually assaulting toddler

The 33-year-old man is facing decades in prison if convicted.

Related

Mankato student injured in fall from balcony on his birthday

The former Mankato football player was celebrating his 23rd birthday.

pontoon

Boy, 9, seriously injured when hit by pontoon motor

A woman was driving the pontoon in reverse trying to reach the boy.

Search ongoing after 2 men thrown from boat in central Minnesota

One man was treated at the scene and the other is missing.

boundary waters

Man dies after falling off boat in Boundary Waters

The incident occurred on Trout Lake on Memorial Day.

Siblings left without parents after father dies on Minnesota lake

Rick Longnecker died while fishing on Lake Oliver this week.

Charges: Woman drove boat after drinking, seriously injuring 2 kids

The incident happened on Eagle Lake in Maple Grove over the weekend.