A Laguna Niguel woman sustained two broken ankles when a dolphin swimming alongside her family’s boat near an Orange County harbor suddenly jumped up and landed in the vessel, knocking her over and giving her children and husband a scare.
Chrissie Frickman, her husband Dirk, and their two children, ages 16 and 12, went boating on June 21, which was Father’s Day and the couple’s anniversary.
According to Dirk Frickman, the family’s main goal that day had been to look for dolphins. The boat — which he was driving — initially headed 90 miles south down to San Onofre, but the family headed back after they didn’t spot anything.
Then, when they were about a half-mile from Dana Point Harbor, the family spotted a pod of about a dozen dolphins, Dirk Frickman told reporters during an early afternoon news conference on Wednesday. He drove the boat over to get a closer look.
“Normally the dolphins run with the boat, they play with the boat, they splash around in front of the boat and they run parallel to it, but this day they were moving a little slower,” he said.
Frickman added they were doing different tricks that day, things one would normally only see somewhere like SeaWorld.
“They were doing 360-degree backflips, in slow motion, right in front of the boat,” he said. “And then, about the fourth one came up right next to the boat … and I just saw this and it came up like a rainbow and … it bounced on the railing and then it flipped over backwards into the boat.”
He said the dolphin knocked down his wife, brushed their daughter and narrowly missed their son.
“It was almost like it fell out of the sky,” Chrissie Frickman said during the news conference, adding that the experience was “really traumatic.”
After knocking the woman over and landing on top of her, the dolphin started thrashing wildly about on the deck, prompting the frightened family to move toward the front of the boat and to safety.
Although badly injured, Chrissie Frickman somehow managed to get up to the front herself. She said she didn’t feel anything at first, but a short time later began experiencing “sharp” pains.
Once his family was safely away from the mammal, Dirk Frickman immediately radioed for help. His biggest concern then turned to how to get the flailing dolphin off the boat.
“I knew right away there was no way you were going to get it off the boat,” Frickman said. He described the scene at that point as “chaos.”
Deputies from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department responded to the radio call, and escorted the Frickman family into the harbor. Chrissie Frickman and her daughter were taken on a patrol boat back shore, while Dirk Frickman and his son stayed on the boat.
Once they got back to the harbor, Dirkman worked with deputies to figure out the best way to get the dolphin off the boat.
“We did get a rope around its tail, but I realized right away its flipper was sticking out the side … there was no way we’re going to pull it past the seats or the bay tank,” Dirkman said.
He then removed all of the seats, at which point they were able to slide the dolphin out of the boat, onto the dock and then into the water.
“It swam away very quickly,” he said.
The dolphin did not appear to be too badly hurt, according to Frickman. He said the mammal sustained a few minor scrapes to its nose and a slightly sliced tale, but left a trail of blood all over the boat.
“I was scared for the dolphin … and I was scared for my kids,” she said. “But I’m sure it was just as traumatized as we were.”
Of the four people on the vessel, only Chrissie Frickman was injured. The broken ankles were caused by the twisting side-by-side movements of her feet and legs after the dolphin landed on her, she said.
Frickman, who is using a wheelchair while she recovers, told reporters she’s gotten quite the response when she tells people how she suffered the injury.
“They think it’s the craziest thing they’ve ever heard, and yet they feel bad for me,” she said.
The family was overall spooked by the incident, said Dirkman, adding that his wife and children did not want to go back on the boat for the time being. He was hopeful, however, that attitude would change over time.
“The dolphins, they’re just wonderful,” Dirkman said. “We have so much sea life out there, and they’re one of the greatest things to see.”