FORT PIERCE, Fla. - Hours after 22 pilot whales became stranded on the shores of Avalon State Beach, dozens of crews and volunteers fought the weight of the marine mammals Saturday night in an attempt to lift the whales to safety.
"We grabbed out buckets and off we came. But as you can see we were too late to help," said Charleen Alioto, a Jupiter Farms resident who drove nearly two hours to help.
It was hard for volunteers like Alioto to look at what was left on the beach as the sun set into the evening on Sunday.
Biologists were forced to euthanize 17 of the stranded pilot whales who they said somehow went off course.
"It's heartbreaking. It's like I'm a mother and that's what came to my thought process was, 'oh my God,' that's just horrible," said Alioto.
And while crews were unable to save the majority of the pilot whales, they did managed to rescue five of them.
The rescued whales were rushed to Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Marine Center. The marine center is just across the Intracoastal Waterway.
"Clinical samples have been taken and the future looks good we remain guardedly optimistic in this case," said Steve McCulloch of Harbor Branch Marine Center.
McCulloch said while his team is investigating how the whales became stranded, he said sometimes the alpha whale becomes sick and others in the pod follow.
Many whales that died were recovered and will be used for research.
The whales that were rescued will receive treatment and could be released as a unit within three-to-five days.