Tour operator says no passengers were thrown overboard in Horizontal Falls boating accident

The tour operator at the center of the Horizontal Falls boating accident said the vessel did not capsize and no passengers were thrown overboard.

Several people were seriously injured when the Falls Express, operated by Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures, ran into trouble around 7am at the popular tourist attraction in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, about 250km north- East of Broome.

On Friday, WA Police Regional Commander Brad Sorrell said a number of people had been thrown into the water, which he said was a priority because there were crocodiles and jellyfish- boxes in the area.

However, in a statement on Saturday afternoon, the tour operator said that was not the case.

“The vessel did not capsize and no passengers were in the water,” the statement said.

“The boat immediately returned to the pontoon.”

The tour operator, Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures, is assisting authorities in their investigation of the incident.(ABC Kimberley: Taylor Thompson Fuller)

The statement confirmed that there were 26 passengers and two crew members on board and that “some guests were injured”.

“Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures continues to liaise with the RFDS and all relevant authorities to handle the incident and will provide updates as more information becomes available.”

Several patients in trauma room

A dozen patients were airlifted to Perth on Saturday evening before being taken to Royal Perth Hospital where they remain in stable condition.

Their ages range from their mid-40s to 70s and although none are in intensive care, nine of them were taken to the hospital’s trauma ward.

Horizontal Falls, The Kimberley
The falls are a natural phenomenon where 10 meters of water gushes through two narrow chasms in Talbot Bay.(Provided by: Richard Costin)

A spokesperson for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said she was involved in a multi-agency investigation into the incident.

The authority has issued a prohibition notice to the vessel concerned, which prevents it from operating until inspectors are satisfied that it is safe to do so.

AMSA has also issued a notice of instruction to prevent the operator from using any other vessels to transit the tourist attraction, pending the outcome of the investigation.

“Two AMSA marine inspectors assisted by an investigator will travel to the site, approximately 100km north of Derby, and are expected to arrive late [on Saturday] afternoon to begin the investigation,” the spokesperson said.

At Jandakot Airport on Friday night, several passengers were carried from Royal Flying Doctor Service planes on stretchers before being transferred to a large ambulance.

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Earlier on Friday, other passengers – some wearing visible bandages – were taken to Broome Hospital.

On Saturday morning, a spokesperson for the WA Country Health Service said two people remained at Broome Hospital in stable condition.

A person on a stretcher is carried out of an RFDS aircraft onto the tarmac
Some of the injured passengers were taken to Broome Hospital by the RFDS on Friday after the incident. (ABC News)

Multi-agency survey

Horizontal Falls Map Boat Crash
The falls are located about 250 km northeast of Broome.(ABC News)

Regional Police Commander Brad Sorrell said the investigation will involve a number of agencies.

“At this time, the details of this incident are still under investigation and the relevant authorities have been dispatched to the scene and will investigate,” he said.

Horizontal Falls at Kimberley
The area is treacherous with high tides and strong currents(ABC News: Natalie Jones)

Horizontal Falls, an iconic northern tourist site, hosts regular jet boat tours through the rising tides of the Kimberley.

The falls are a natural phenomenon where 10 meters of water gushes through two narrow chasms in Talbot Bay.

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Called Garaangaddim by the traditional owners, the falls have been described by David Attenborough as “one of the greatest natural wonders of the world”.

The coastline, however, is treacherous with high tides, whirlpools and strong currents.

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