A Queensland coroner says criminal charges could be laid against Dreamworld’s owner Ardent Leisure following the 2016 tragedy that claimed the lives of four holidaymakers.
Cindy Low, Kate Goodchild, her brother Luke Dorsett and his partner Roozi Araghi died in October 2016 when a water pump on the Gold Coast theme park’s Thunder River Rapids ride malfunctioned.
Coroner James McDougall says Dreamworld presented itself as a modern, world-class theme park but its safety procedures were rudimentary at best.
Michael Cooke holds a picture of his sister Cindy Low, killed at Dreamworld, as he leaves Brisbane Magistrates Court on Monday after the Queensland Coroner delivered his findings
Tributes were left for the victims at Dreamworld in October 2016 at the time of the tragedy
Cindy Low (top right), Kate Goodchild (bottom left), her brother Luke Dorsett (bottom right) and his partner Roozi Araghi (top left) tragically lost their lives in the incident
On Monday, he referred Ardent Leisure to the Office of Industrial Relations to consider whether the company may have committed an offence under workplace laws.
In handing down his findings, he said there was a ‘systemic failure’ by Dreamworld in all aspects of safety.
He described the systems that were in place as ‘frighteningly unsophisticated’.
Mr McDougall said he also found no evidence Dreamworld conducted a thorough engineering risk assessment of the ride in the three decades it was open to the public.
The raft (pictured) carrying six people overturned after a malfunction on the Thunder Rapids ride at Dreamworld in 2016. Four people were crushed and drowned
The Thunder River Rapids Ride in action at Dreamworld some time before the accident
Kim Dorsett, mother of victims Kate Goodchild and Luke Dorsett, leaves the Magistrates Court in Brisbane on Monday. The grieving mother wiped away tears as she said her great regret was that she wasn’t there for them that day. ‘The harrowing part is living without them,’ she said
‘I find that shoddy record-keeping was a significant contributor to this incident … (and) contributed to the masking of the real risk of the (ride),’ he said.
An external engineer, Tom Polley, who was engaged by Dreamworld to inspect the ride, has been referred to the Board of Professional Engineers in relation to his conduct.
Mr McDougall said his failure to properly inspect the ride fell below industry standards.
More than a hundred people packed the Brisbane Coroners Court to hear the long-awaited findings.
Ardent Leisure CEO John Osborne (left) and Chairman Gary Weiss (right) leave Brisbane Magistrates Court on Monday. The Queensland Coroner said criminal charges may be laid against Ardent Leisure
Ms Low, Ms Goodchild, Mr Dorsett and Mr Araghi died after being flung into a mechanised conveyor when their raft collided with another and partially flipped.
Ms Goodchild’s 12-year-old daughter and Ms Low’s 10-year-old son survived the incident.
On Monday morning, Ms Goodchild and Mr Dorsett’s mother Kim Dorsett spoke of her grief, saying her greatest regret was not being there for her children on the day they needed her most.
‘I wasn’t there,’ she said while wiping tears from her face.
‘The easier part was burying them, the harrowing part is living without them.’
The pair’s father, John Goodchild, said his grief was exacerbated by learning the malfunction could have been identified before the accident happened.
Families at the Brisbane Magistrate’s Court on Monday. Far left: Matthew Low, husband of Cindy Low. Centre right: Shane Goodchild, father of Kate Goodchild and Luke Dorsett
Police at Dreamworld, Gold Coast, on October 25 after the tragedy
WHAT IS THE THUNDER RIVER RAPIDS RIDE?
- Thunder River Rapids opened in 1986 and remains one of Dreamworld’s oldest rides
- Ride located in the Gold Rush section of Gold Coast’s biggest theme park and considered one of Dreamworld’s most ‘family friendly’
- Riders board six-person circular rafts which follow initial path through a cave before experiencing the rapids section of the ride
- Thunder River Rapids lasts four minutes in total and hits top speed of 45km/h
- Riders are usually splashed with water as rafts spin through the rapids and hit walls
- Conveyor belt takes rafts back to start of the ride for passengers to hop in and out
The wide-ranging inquest, which opened in June, has unveiled a ‘litany of problems’ with some experts declaring the tragedy was an accident waiting to happen.
The malfunction was the third that day and the fifth in a week.
Police uncovered multiple incidents involving the ride in the past, with two rafts colliding in 2004, throwing a guest into the trough.
Despite recommendations for a single emergency stop, no single shutdown function was installed.
Queensland introduced new safety regulations for amusement rides, including mandatory major inspections of rides by qualified engineers every 10 years and improved training for ride operators.
The state also tightened workplace health and safety prosecution laws.
Dreamworld’s owner, Ardent Leisure, has issued a statement extending its sympathies to the families and friends of the victims of the tragedy.
The company said it would review the report and comment further on Tuesday.
Ardent Leisure was among the worst performers on the ASX/300 index on Monday, its shares plunging by as much as 18.1 per cent to a near two-month low of $1.155 in morning trade.
The company was still trading 15.6 per cent lower at $1.19 at 1pm.