At least a dozen people have been seriously injured in a boating accident at Horizontal Falls on Australia’s west coast.
A tour boat with 26 passengers and two crew ran into trouble 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 the tour boat Express Falls operated by Horizontal Falls Sea Plane Adventures had capsized and thrown several people overboard.
“A number of people ended up in the water and were rescued,” he told media.
Sorrell said this was the main priority for rescuers as there were crocodiles and box jellyfish in the area.
However, the tour operator denied the boat capsized and said no passengers were thrown overboard, according to ABC News.
“The boat immediately returned to the pontoon,” the tour operator said in a statement, confirming there were 26 passengers and some 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.”
The passengers were taken to Broome Hospital via four Royal Flying Doctor Service planes and those with more serious injuries were taken to the Royal Hospital in Perth.
The head of general surgery at the Royal Perth Hospital, Dieter Weber, said wa today that the patients ranged in age from 46 to 70, with injuries ranging from broken bones to head injuries.
“We had several patients who required surgery for their injuries and operations are continuing,” he said.
“The operations ranged from various orthopedic and plastic procedures to the injuries they suffered.
“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 well-being too.”
WA Premier Mark McGowan said a thorough investigation was underway by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).
“It could have been a tragic outcome, but everyone has been rescued and people are now in hospitals in Perth or Broome and everyone is being managed as best we can under the circumstances we faced,” he said, according to WA Today. “The company involved is not working now, it has been suspended while all these matters are looked into.
It is currently unknown what caused the crash, with Sorrell and Dieter remaining mum on the subject.
Horizontal Falls is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Kimberley region, dubbed one of the greatest natural wonders of the world by Sir David Attenborough.
The striking effect of the ‘falls’, called Garaangaddim by the traditional owners, is created by 10 meters of water surging through two narrow chasms at Talbot Bay.