A man was killed while another man was left injured after a whale struck a boat off the coast of eastern Australia on Saturday, according to local police.

The two men were flung from the vessel when the boat was hit at around 6:00am local time (2000 GMT on Friday) in the waters off La Perouse, which is located 14 kilometres (nine miles) southeast of Sydney.

The 4.8-meter runabout vessel was empty and circling until someone aboard a second boat noticed it and raised the alarm, according to authorities.

The 53-year-old skipper was rescued from the sea nearby, given medical attention by paramedics, and transferred to a hospital where, according to authorities, he was in a stable condition.

The other man, 61, who became a victim of the whale’s attack died at the scene after becoming unconscious, AFP reported.

The skipper had been trying to hold his boating companion “as close as he could” in an effort to save him, Water Police Acting Superintendent Siobhan Munro said.

It is thought the whale had breached near or possibly onto the boat, she added, describing the collision as a “tragic accident”.

Humpback and southern right whales can be seen along the New South Wales coastline every year. They head north to warmer breeding grounds during Australia’s winter months, returning southwards between September and November.

“Right now there are lots of whales out there and there are lots of examples of whales breaching next to boats,” Munro said.

The accident came less than two weeks after a four-metre humpback whale was struck in the head by a boat propeller off the coast of Western Australia.

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