Dreamworld’s owners could be fined $3 million if prosecuted over the 2016 accident that killed four holidaymakers, whose families claim the theme park put profits ahead of safety.
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.
In delivering his inquest findings today, Coroner James McDougall said Dreamworld presented itself as a modern, world-class theme park, but its “frighteningly unsophisticated” safety procedures were “rudimentary at best”.
Mr McDougall said there was a “systemic failure” by Dreamworld in all aspects of safety, and there had been no thorough engineering risk assessment of the ride in the three decades it was open to the public. He referred parent company Ardent Leisure to the Office of Industrial Relations for possible prosecution under workplace laws.
“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),” Mr McDougall said. More than 100 people packed the Brisbane Coroners Court to hear the long-awaited findings.
The company could face fines of up to $3 million, with individual executives facing up to $600,000 and five years’ jail and the external engineer, Tom Polley, has also been referred to the Board of Professional Engineers for failing to properly inspect the ride.
All four victims died after being flung into a mechanised conveyor when their raft collided with another and partially flipped. The malfunction was the third that day and the fifth in a week, and no automated shutdown function was installed despite recommendations. Ms Goodchild’s 12-year-old daughter and Ms Low’s 10-year-old son survived the incident.
Following the tragedy, 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.
Ardent Leisure issued a statement extending its sympathies to the families and friends of the victims of the tragedy. “A decision has been made to construct a Memorial Garden at Dreamworld to honour the memory of everyone affected and as part of the process, we will reach out privately to the immediate family members of Roozbeh, Luke, Kate and Cindy for their input,” Ardent Leisure Group’s Chairman Dr Gary Weiss AM and CEO John Osborne said in a joint statement.
“Ardent reaffirms its commitment to implement the Coroner’s recommendations that relate to the operations of Dreamworld in consultation with Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) and the theme park industry.”
It was among the worst performers on the ASX/300 index today, 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 closed 16.3 per cent lower at $1.18.