Some Horizontal Falls boating accident victims expected to stay in hospital for days, surgeon says

Several patients involved in a boating accident in Western Australia’s Kimberley region are expected to remain in hospital for days as they recover from their “severe” injuries.

Twenty-eight people were on board the Falls Express tour boat on Friday when it ran into trouble around 7am at Horizontal Falls, a popular tourist attraction about 250km northeast of Broome.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service transferred a dozen seriously injured passengers to Perth, while those with minor injuries were taken to Broome Hospital.

Ten patients aged between 46 and 70 – six women and four men – remain at the Royal Perth Hospital after two were discharged on Saturday. All are considered stable.

The hospital’s chief of surgery, Dieter Weber, said their injuries included “fractures, musculoskeletal injuries and ligament damage to the limbs”, as well as head trauma.

Royal Perth Hospital trauma surgeon Dieter Weber said all of the injured are expected to make a full recovery,(ABC News: Tabarak Al Jrood)

“Operations range from various orthopedic procedures and plastic procedures,” he said.

“[But] I’m really happy to say that although they came to us with serious injuries, none of them are considered life threatening at this time and I expect patients to be able to s ‘get over it.’

Psychological support needed

Dr Weber said some of the patients would stay in hospital for a few more days to receive continued treatment.

“We don’t just deal with their physical injuries…it’s a very collaborative approach with our allied healthcare professionals and with our clinical psychologists,” he said.

“Repairing 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 as well.”

A person on a stretcher is carried out of an RFDS aircraft onto the tarmac
The injured passengers were transported by the RFDS to Broome and 12 were transferred to Perth following the accident at Horizontal Falls.(ABC News)

“The patients have coped remarkably well…they’ve obviously been through a significant ordeal.”

On Friday, WA Police Regional Commander Brad Sorrell said it appeared several people had been thrown into the water, but tour operator Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures said yesterday that was not the case.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is carrying out a multi-agency investigation into the incident and has issued a prohibition notice to the boat involved in the accident, Falls Express, which prevents it from operating until the inspectors are confident that it can be done safely.

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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.

The company has suspended operations while the investigation is ongoing.

Treacherous coastline

Horizontal Falls, a well-known tourist spot, hosts regular motorboat trips through the fast-moving Kimberley tides.

The falls, known as Garaangaddim to the traditional owners, are a natural phenomenon where 10 meters of water gushes through two narrow chasms at Talbot Bay.

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But the coastline is treacherous with high tides, whirlpools and strong currents.

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