"Who pays when..."


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The following article appeared in the Eugene Register-Guard newspaper on Tuesday, November 17, 1970. It follows-up on Walter Umenhofer, whose vehicle was smashed by a 3-foot chunk of whale following the Oregon Highway Division’s detonation of a sperm whale carcass on November 12, 1970.

Who pays when you’re hit by whale?

Tuesday, November 17, 1970

“I called my insurance agent to fill out an accident report form, and he laughed.

“I called the State Highway Commission and the man I talked to there laughed.

“I guess it’s pretty funny, considering no one got hurt,” muses a Springfield businessman who may be the first person in history to have his car flattened by a piece of flying whale blubber.

Walter Umenhaufer’s1 car was the one hit by a piece of whale blown up by the State Highway Division on a beach south of Florence last week. Though the blast was a quarter-mile away, a three-foot chunk was blown over the heads of spectators and smashed the top of Umenhaufer’s late-model car.

The whale was blasted because no other suitable way could be found to dispose of the 45-foot-long carcass.

Umenhaufer said a State Highway official told him to go ahead and have the car fixed. But the businessman said as far as he’s concerned, the car belongs to the State Highway Division. And he wants top-dollar retail value for it.

“I don’t want that car,” he said. “It still stinks of the whale. I went down to the shop the other day to get something out of the glove box, and the car was covered with a tarp because it smelled so bad.”

Umenhaufer said he was contacted by a state insurance carrier Monday and he hopes to work out a settlement.

© 1970 Eugene Register-Guard


  1. The correct spelling of Walter’s last name is “Umenhofer”; it is misspelled as “Umenhaufer” in this article.