Ambulances and medical staff have met at least a dozen tourists injured in a boating accident at the famous Horizontal Falls as they arrived at Broome Airport.
Up to 15 people, some covered in bandages, were seen disembarking a Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures aircraft at about 12pm.
It is understood they will be taken to Broome Health Campus for treatment of a variety of injuries.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service has been coordinating the evacuation and will be transporting the most seriously injured patients to Jandakot Airport in Perth, while well-known tourism operator Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventure uses its aircraft to fly injured tourists from the tourist attraction to Broome Airport.
A total of people — 26 tourists and two crew members — are feared to have been injured in the serious boating incident at the iconic tourist spot, about 100km north of Derby.
Emergency services responded to reports of a vessel capsizing or running ashore in Talbot Bay, about 250km east of Broome, at about 8.30am Friday.
In a statement released on Friday afternoon, tour operator Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures said it was working with authorities to help the injured passengers.
“Falls Express, guided by an experienced skipper during an early-morning tour, was involved in the incident while travelling through the falls,” the statement said.
“The vessel immediately returned to the pontoon.
“[We] are continuing to liaise with the RFDS and emergency services to manage the incident.”
A WA Country Health Service spokeswoman told The West Australian the organisation was not yet aware of the extent of people’s injuries, but there are fears some are seriously hurt.
“Kimberley Hospitals are on stand-by and Broome Health Campus has activated an emergency alert in anticipation of patient arrivals – the first of which are expected within the hour,” she said.
As Broome Health Campus prepares for an influx of patients, it’s expected those most seriously injured will be flown to Jandakot Airport in Perth, from where they will be taken to Royal Perth Hospital.
An initial statement from WA Police confirmed emergency services were responding to the incident, and that “several people onboard are injured”.
WorkSafe has been notified of the incident, but has yet to send investigators given the remoteness of the location.
Horizontal Falls, described as an ocean phenomenon, attracts tourists from all over the world, with its swift tidal currents squeezing between two narrow gorges in what Sir David Attenborough once labelled “one of the greatest natural wonders of the world”.
The iconic falls, known for their fast-moving tides, play host to frequent jet boat tours.
More to come.