Killer whale dies on Kauai's south shore

Nathalie Gilchrist
Nathalie Gilchrist
David Schofield
David Schofield

By Duane Shimogawa - bio | email

POIPU (KHNL) - Witnesses describe seeing a rare sighting at Brennecke's Beach on Kauai's south shore Wednesday as a painful to watch.

An ailing 20-foot killer whale was discovered around midnight Wednesday. Crews were forced to put it to sleep. But before they could do that, the whale died.

Nathalie Gilchrist and some friends got up early to take a walk on this beach. But it turned out to be a walk they'll never forget.

"We came out here, a group of ladies and there was a killer whale, about 20-feet long, kept flipping over," she said.

Crews prepared to remove the whale after veterinarians found its condition to be very poor.

"It was emaciated, you can see the ribs and you can see the neck of the whale," NOAA Marine Mammal Response Coordinator David Schofield said. "The decision was made that if the animal didn't perish on its own, that it would have to be put to sleep humanely."

Crews pulled it out of the water and hauled it to private lands near the Old Koloa Sugar Mill.

"We expect to see a sick whale, obviously killer whales are very social species and to have a lone, single animal in this body condition on the beach, points to an animal that's in big trouble," Schofield said.

Still, some felt the young female whale should've been let go.

"Lot of people asked us why not push it out to sea, thinking free willy and all that but that's really the wrong thing to do, an animal that's sick like this comes ashore because it's dying and it's having trouble breathing," Schofield said.

Gilchrist and others hope to never see this sight again.

"It was sad to see the whale laying there trying to survive, it was very sad, it kept blowing and pulling in air and but she would roll over and be upside down, that was very sad," she said.

There were also several shark sightings in the area. Kauai County officials have closed Brennecke's Beach. It's not known when they'll re-open it. The last stranded orca in Hawaii was off the coast of Lanai in 2004.