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

Ten patients are still in hospital after the boating accident at Horizontal Falls, on Western Australia's Kimberley coast.  (ABC: Natalie Jones)

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 "critical" injuries.

Twenty-eight people were on board the tour boat Falls Express on Friday when it ran into trouble at about 7am at Horizontal Falls, a popular tourist attraction about 250km north-east 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 Royal Perth Hospital after two were discharged on Saturday. All are considered stable.

The hospital's head of surgery, Dieter Weber, said their injuries included "broken bones, musculoskeletal injuries and ligament injuries to limbs," as well as head trauma.

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

"The operations have ranged from various orthopaedic procedures and plastic procedures," he said.

"[But] I'm really pleased to say that while they came to us with the critical injuries, none of them are considered life-threatening at the moment and I would expect the patients to be able to make recovery from this."

Psychological support needed

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

"We're not just addressing their physical injuries … this is a very collaborative approach with our allied health professionals and with our clinical psychologists," he said.

"Fixing broken bones is one aspect of the care, but it's the whole reintegration, the rehabilitation that goes on afterwards and of course the psychological wellbeing as well."

Injured passengers were transported by the RFDS to Broome and 12 were transferred to Perth after the accident at Horizontal Falls. (ABC News)

"The patients have held up remarkably well … they've obviously been through a significant ordeal."

On Friday, WA Police regional commander Brad Sorrell said it appeared as though 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 leading a multi-agency investigation into the incident and has issued a prohibition notice to the boat involved in the crash, Falls Express, which prevents it from operating until inspectors are satisfied it can do so safely.

AMSA also issued a direction notice to prevent the operator from using any other vessel to transit the tourist attraction, pending the outcome of the investigation.

The company has suspended its operations while the investigation is underway.

Treacherous coastline

Horizontal Falls, a well-known tourism spot, is host to regular jet boat tours through the fast-rising Kimberley tides.

The falls, known as Garaangaddim by traditional owners, are a natural phenomenon where 10 metres of water surges through two narrow chasms at Talbot Bay.

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