Western Australia tour company, skipper charged for injury-causing boat crash

The tour boat Falls Express, date unknown (Photo: Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures)

Charges have been filed against a boat captain and the company that owns a high-speed vessel that collided with rocks at Horizontal Falls, Western Australia in late May 2022, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said in a statement on Tuesday, May 30.

On May 27, 2022, the high-speed vessel Falls Express struck a rock wall while carrying 25 passengers and two crewmembers.

The vessel was on sightseeing tour of Talbot Bay when the incident occurred.

Dozens of people on the boat were seriously injured as a result of the domestic commercial vessel’s operation at high-speed through the narrow 7.5-metre gap at Horizontal Falls. Some of the occupants suffered significant injuries requiring surgery, though none of the injuries were life-threatening.

AMSA said the response effort by emergency services and other domestic commercial vessels operating in the area at the time was “rapid and commendable.”

AMSA has meticulously investigated the incident, gathering, and analysing evidence over the past year.  With support from the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, charges have now been laid under the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Act 2012 (i.e. the “National Law”).

The master, Edward James Whisson, has been charged with two safety-related offences: failing to take reasonable care, and not implementing and complying with the safety management system for the vessel and its operations.

The owner, Journey Beyond Adventures (trading as Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures), has been charged with two offences for: failing to, so far as reasonably practicable, ensure the safety of the vessel, its equipment and the operation of the vessel; and failing to implement and maintain a safety management system that could ensure the vessel and its operations were safe.

AMSA clarified that, as this matter will now proceed to the Magistrates Court of Western Australia, it would be inappropriate for the agency to comment further.

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