Diver Who Says He Was Trapped Inside Whale Also Survived Plane Crash That Killed 3
Michael Packard survived a plane crash in Costa Rica in 2001 that killed three other people
Michael Packard says he found himself floating inside the mouth of a humpback whale — and it wasn't the first time he'd faced a brush with death.
Packard, 56, made headlines this week with his story of surviving a once-in-a-lifetime whale encounter off the coast of Cape Cod — a lucky break that came 20 years after he survived a deadly plane crash in Costa Rica.
The father of two touched on the incident in a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" Q&A session on Saturday, explaining that he'd been "flung out of the plane before it even hit the ground."
A 2001 Cape Cod Times article said that Packard was one of at least six passengers on board the flight, which was headed from the capital of San Jose to the fishing port of Puerto Jimenez when it crashed in a remote area.
Three others on board, including both pilots, were killed, while Packard and at least four others survived, though it reportedly took rescuers several hours to reach them.
At the time, a family friend named Rita Rozen said that Packard, the son of famous painter Anne Packard, suffered severe facial injuries and multiple broken bones in his arms and legs.
"What he's told me when I ask him is that he was just astounded to be alive, if he was rescued even a day later he wouldn't be here today," Packard's son Jacob, 16, wrote in the AMA. "He has a large scar on his neck. This all happened before I was born, but I'm sure it shaped him into the brave and passionate man he is today."
As if two near-death experiences weren't enough, Packard also wrote in the AMA that at 15 years old, he was nearly swept out to sea.
"My fishing boat became stranded off at sea. I swam after it," he wrote. "Visibility was terrible, had no idea where I was. No way back to shore. Barely made it out of there with my life, lucky I was found."
In 2017, he also stumbled upon the body of a fellow diver who'd been lost at sea six years earlier, he said.
Though Packard's account of his whale encounter has raised questions, friend Josiah Mayo, who was one of several witnesses of the incident, came to his defense in an interview with the Washington Post.
Mayo, his fishing partner, said Packard has a reputation among locals as an experienced angler, which has lent credibility to his story.
"If it was some yahoo, I think we'd be arguing if it actually happened," Mayo told the Post. "You see him narrating what happened and it's just … so very clearly true and obvious what happened."
Though headlines have declared Packard was nearly "eaten" by the whale, he has maintained that the whale did not try to swallow or eat him, as the animal would have been "physically incapable" of doing so due to the small size of its throat.
Packard, who had an oxygen tank on him, said the massive creature likely ran into him by accident while searching for krill, and that he was trapped in complete darkness for about 30-40 seconds.
"I was almost convinced I was going to die that day," he wrote on Reddit. "Eventually, the whale managed to dislodge me by moving its head and tongue, I think. [It was] completely dark. I could've suffocated, or drowned if I didn't retrieve my regulator in time."
Though a doctor found no broken bones and no signs of an embolism, Packard did suffer bruises and a dislocated knee, the Post reported.
"I was gulped before even realizing that my head or feet were first. It was pretty tight, but spacious enough for me to move my arms at least," he wrote on Reddit. "I'm getting back in the water as soon as possible. This job is my life, wouldn't stop for anything."