At least a dozen people have been seriously injured in a boating accident at Horizontal Falls on Western Australia’s coast.
A tour boat with 26 passengers and two crew found itself in trouble at around 7am on Friday morning at the popular tourist attraction in the Kimberly region about 250km northeast of Broome.
WA Police commander Brad Sorrell said there were indications that the tour boat Falls Express operated by Horizontal Falls Sea Plane Adventures had capsized and several people were thrown overboard.
“A number of people did find themselves in the water and were rescued,” he told the media.
Sorrell said this was the main priority for rescuers because there were crocodiles and box jellyfish in the area.
However, the tour operator has confirmed the boat did not capsize and said no passengers were thrown into the water.
“The vessel did not capsize and no passengers were in the water. The boat immediately returned to the pontoon,” the tour operator said in a statement, confirming there were 26 passengers and some sustained injuries.
“Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures is continuing to liaise with the RFDS and all relevant authorities to manage the incident and will provide updates as more information becomes available.”
Passengers were taken to Broome hospital via four Royal Flying Doctor Service aircraft and those with more serious injuries were taken to Royal Perth Hospital.
Royal Perth Hospital’s head of general surgery, Dieter Weber told WA Today that the patients were aged from 46 to those in their 70s, with injuries ranging from broken bones to head injuries.
“We’ve had multiple patients having to go to surgery for their injuries and the surgeries are ongoing,” he said.
“The operations ranged from various orthopaedic and plastic procedures for the injuries they’ve received.
“Fixing broken bones is one aspect of care, but it’s the whole reintegration, the rehabilitation that goes on afterwards and of course the psychological wellbeing as well.”
WA Premier Mark McGowan said a full investigation was underway by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).
“It could have been a tragic outcome but everyone was rescued and people are now in hospitals in Perth or Broome and everyone is being managed as best we can in the circumstances we faced,” he said, according to WA Today.“The company involved is not operating now, it has been suspended whilst all these matters are looked at.”
It is not currently known what caused the accident, with both Sorrell and Dieter remaining tight-lipped on the topic.
Horizontal Falls is one of the Kimberley region’s most popular tourist attractions, dubbed one of the world’s greatest natural wonders by Sir David Attenborough.
The stunning effect of the ‘falls’, which are called Garaangaddim by traditional owners, is created by 10 meters of water surging through two narrow chasms at Talbot Bay.