MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It started as a relaxing vacation in Mexico, but it turned in to a terrifying rescue at sea for a Minnesota woman.

Kim Armstrong of Windom was on a snorkeling tour when a gray whale breached and hit her boat.

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A Canadian tourist later died from her injuries. Armstrong was one of two people hurt.

Every vacation has memorable moments. Armstrong’s trip to Cabo San Luca was full of fun memories of snorkeling, whale watching and enjoying Mexican cuisine.

But she doesn’t need to look at the photo album to remember the March vacation. She has a constant reminder.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“The brace just is holding my neck,” Armstrong said.

She is healing from a near-paralyzing accident, the victim of a moment when nature and tourists collided.

“I’m not really sure what hit, or how the accident really happened and how I got my injuries, because there’s a time that I don’t remember,” she said.

Armstrong and her two sisters were returning to shore after a snorkeling trip. As they traveled the Sea of Cortez, a gray whale surfaced near their small inflatable boat.

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“My last thought was, ‘We’re going to hit that whale,'” she said.

Armstrong, a man and a Canadian woman took the brunt of the impact. The Canadian woman went overboard. Armstrong’s family was quick to help the injured.

(credit: Kim Armstrong)

(credit: Kim Armstrong)

“One of them jumped in with a crew member and got her back on the boat,” she said.

After pulling the other woman to safety and performing CPR, Armstrong’s sisters turned their attention to her — knowing her injury was not obvious.

“I just know that when I came to that my sisters where there and helping me and telling me not to move,” she said.

Surgery set the fractures in her broken neck. Another procedure is still a possibility.

“I pretty much take it day by day,” Armstrong said. “I know I’m very lucky and I want to be grateful and thankful for being able to move and do everything I can do,” she said.

Armstrong says she won’t let her accident keep her from being adventurous on vacations.

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She has plans to return to Mexico once she has fully recovered to finish her family trip without interruptions.