Horizontal Falls incident

Rescue operation at Horizontal Falls an extraordinary day for the RFDS

Date published

17 Jun 2022

Friday 29 May 2022 was an extraordinary day for the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Western Australia (RFDS).

Sally Edmonds with nurses

Our Flying Doctor teams were called to one of the most difficult medical emergencies in the last decade in an extremely remote location on the Kimberley coast.  

The rescue operation to help tourists injured after a boating accident at Horizontal Falls was one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced as an organisation since the onset of COVID-19.

The retrieval of nearly 20 patients was a complicated and challenging situation given the location some 250kms from Broome, with no telephone reception and only accessible by boat or plane.

RFDS Western Operations Dr Sally Edmonds was one of the first responders on the scene.

Dr sally edmonds

“When I arrived, I knew that we had a big day’s work ahead of us,” said Dr Sally (pictured leftmost with RFDS WA Flight Nurses Natalie Saunders and Rachel Climpson who were amongst the first at the scene).  

“I’ve never been on a remote pontoon with so many seriously injured people before. It was necessary to move those with fractured limbs and other injuries by stretcher two at a time to treat and then transfer them."

Four RFDS aircraft were dispatched to the closest landing strip (a 15 minute helicopter ride away from the boat) where the team treated injured patients before transferring 12 people to hospital in Perth and a further five patients to Broome Hospital.

Three RFDS jets called to respond

Injured patients received vital medical care from the moment RFDS clinicians were at the scene and during their flights. Your generous donations help ensure our crews have the essential equipment needed to treat our patients.

RFDS Western Operations Aviation General Manager Anthony Green said it was one of the busiest days the RFDS had experienced in the Kimberley. 

“In addition to retrieving 18 patients from Horizontal Falls, the RFDS also safely retrieved an additional 18 patients from around WA, including several high priority cases as we carried out our usual 24/7 service to the people of Western Australia,” Anthony said.

“We’re incredibly proud of our RFDS team who worked hard to respond to so many patients. We continue to ensure as ever, that we provide the best possible care for Western Australians."