Video shows beachgoers rescuing dozens of beached whales

"They are going to die if they don't get help."

Sophie Lewis – CBS News

Dramatic video shows dozens of beachgoers working together Tuesday to save nearly 50 whales that were beached or dangerously close to shore in Georgia. Three of the animals did not survive. 

Multiple pilot whales repeatedly beached themselves on St. Simons Island on Tuesday, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources said in a statement. A crowd gathered for an impromptu rescue operation, pushing the whales back out to sea. 

The rescue attempt was captured in a 15-minute video shared on Facebook by local resident Dixie McCoy. It shows dozens of people of all ages working to get the animals safely back into the water.

“It is so sad,” McCoy said in the video. “They are going to die if they don’t get help.”

Many of the animals were successfully pushed back out to sea, but three of the whales died. “The remaining whales were last seen swimming in the sound, and it is hoped they will continue to keep moving out to sea,” the department said. 

“While stranding is a known natural occurrence, the only thing we can do is to continue pushing them out to sea,” said Clay George, a wildlife biologist at the department. 

Beached Whales East Beach SSI, GA

East beach St. Simons Island, GA

Posted by Dixie V. McCoy on Tuesday, July 16, 2019

A cause of death has not yet been determined. A necropsy is scheduled to take place Thursday. 

In a news conference, George said it is “exceedingly rare, for something like this to happen in Georgia.”

“These animals should be 100 miles or more off our coast,” he said. “So, something went wrong with this pod of pilot whales.” 

George said members of the public should not attempt to help a beached whale, as they are usually ill or injured, but in this case, the beachgoers did the right thing. “It could have been far worse,” he said.

The pod is now making its way out to deeper waters, George said, and officials are “cautiously optimistic.”