The company that was the focus of the Horizontal Falls boating accident, which sparked a major rescue mission last month, has resumed touring but won’t offer a high-speed boat tour of the famed natural wonder for the foreseeable future.
The Falls Express, operated by Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures, was on a tour of the natural phenomena about 250 km northeast of Broome when it ran into trouble on May 27 with 26 passengers and two crew on board.
Contrary to initial information, an initial investigation by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority revealed that the ship did not capsize and appeared to have collided with a rock face.
In a statement to Facebook on Wednesday, Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures said the past few weeks had been a “tough time for our crew, team, and guests.”
The company said it was “glad to announce” it was resuming operations on Wednesday but said there would be “a few temporary changes to our tours.”
“Due to operational constraints, we will operate at reduced capacity,” the statement said.
“This means that some tours cannot go ahead. We will contact any affected guests as soon as possible.
“We will also temporarily change our routes to remove the high-speed boat ride through the Horizontal Falls.
“We will continue to offer a boat tour to view the first set of falls from a reasonable distance so that every guest can view the falls from the water.”
The company said that tourists who had already booked the adrenaline-pumping experience would receive a discount.
At the time, the tour operator said the Falls Express was being accompanied by an experienced skipper when the ship ran into trouble while traveling through the falls and immediately returned “to the pontoon”.
After the incident, AMSA said it had issued a “prohibition notice to the domestic, commercial vessel and an instruction to prevent the operator from using another vessel to pass the Horizontal Falls pending the outcome of the investigation”.
“AMSA has also issued an emergency suspension of the Master’s Certificate of Competency,” it said.
The findings of the AMSA investigation have yet to be made public.
The incident sparked a major multi-agency response, with the Royal Flying Doctor Service transferring 18 patients, most airlifted to Perth.
A makeshift emergency department was set up on nearby Koolan Island, where Mt Gibson Iron operates a mine, as part of the rescue effort, grading patients based on the severity of their injuries.
More than a dozen tourists suffered serious injuries and required surgery.
The tourist hotspot has two narrow, steep rock canyons in the bay that turn into rapids when water is pushed through them with the changing tides.
It was once described by Sir David Attenborough as “one of the greatest natural wonders of the world”.