Investigators probe jet boat accident in remote Australian spot

Investigators probe jet boat accident in remote Australian spot

Investigators are looking into what caused a serious jet boat incident in one of Western Australia's most remote locations, as rescuers work into the late afternoon to winch injured tourists off a pontoon at Horizontal Falls.

The Falls Express carried 26 passengers and two crew when it ran into problems at the tourist hotspot in the Kimberley region of WA at 7.15 am on Friday.

Horizontal Falls is praised as one of the greatest natural wonders of the world with huge nine-metre tides that surge through narrow cliffs that cut into two gorges in the McLarty Ranges. Jet boats ride the horizontal rivers created by the fast-moving tides.

Brad Sorrell, the regional commander of WA police, said 12 people had been seriously injured in the incident, with several being thrown into the crocodile-infested waters.

Sorrell wouldn't say anything more about what caused the accident, as a multi- agencyncy investigation had already been launched.

He said the boat may have capsized at some point.

The details of the incident are still under investigation and the relevant authorities have been referred to and we will be investigating, Sorrell said.

It is not a classic police investigation. There are a number of things that have to take place, he said.

More injured passengers were expected to arrive in Perth after dark this evening.

The people who fell in the water, which is also home to the deadly box jellyfish, were swept over by helicopter to a large pontoon before being flown to a makeshift triage area set up at the nearby Koolan Island iron ore mine.

Damien Whitham, the critical incident controller of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, said four aircraft with six doctors and six nurses were sent to the remote area. People with serious injuries were then airlifted to Royal Perth Hospital.

The RFDS examined and treated passengers on the boat and nine people were treated for minor injuries. He said no children were involved.

At around noon today, those with minor injuries arrived in Broome by seaplane.

As we speak, we have two patients being lifted off the pontoon and taken back to Koolan Island as a staging post, where they will be triaged as soon as possible and before last light this evening.

The triage is ongoing, it has been a huge effort, he said.

First responders reached the boat by 8.30 am, Whitham said.

The hospitals in the northern half of the WA Country Health service network were told to prepare for the arrival of up to 25 patients.

The boat was operated by Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures, a Broome-based tourism company that charges about $1,000 for a scenic flight, Talbot Bay cruise and a ride through the falls.

The company said the boat was led by an experienced skipper but was involved in an incident early this morning.

The vessel was immediately returned to the pontoon, the company said.

The operator can confirm that 26 passengers and two crew on board and some guests have sustained injuries. Our team is working with the Royal Flying Doctor Service RFDS and emergency services who will soon be landing to provide medical and medevac assistance as needed. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority inspectors were expected to arrive tomorrow.

A prohibition notice had been issued to Falls Express, the ABC reported.