The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has opened its investigation into a boating accident in the Kimberley region of Western Australia which left several people seriously injured in hospital.
- Several agencies will be involved in the investigation
- There are 12 patients at the Royal Perth Hospital
- Several others were taken to Broome Hospital on Friday
On Friday morning, 28 people were on board the Falls Express tour boat when it ran into trouble at Horizontal Falls, a popular tourist attraction about 250km northeast of Broome.
A dozen patients were airlifted to Perth overnight 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 remain in the hospital’s trauma ward.
A major rescue mission was undertaken to airlift the injured out of the remote location after several passengers were thrown into crocodile-infested waters just after 7am on Friday.
Nearby Koolan Island was set up as a temporary triage area after six planes, six doctors and six flight nurses were called in to deal with the emergency.
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.
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.
Regional Police Commander Brad Sorrell said the investigation will involve a number of agencies including WA Police, Worksafe and the National Transport Authority.
“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.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is to send two inspectors to the remote site on Saturday to begin its investigation.
AMSA has issued a prohibition notice for the Falls Express, which is operated by Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures.
These notices are issued when the authority believes that an activity poses an immediate threat to the health and safety of any person.
“The activity cannot be restarted until the inspector is satisfied that adequate measures have been taken to eliminate the threat,” explains AMSA on its website.
In a statement on Friday, the tour operator said it was working with authorities and emergency services to handle the incident.
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.
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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