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

The Minnesota native now lives in Monterey, California.
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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. 

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