DREAMWORLD IN­QUEST Dis­turb­ing de­tails be­hind the theme park tragedy.

DREAMWORLD IN­QUEST. With the first stage of the in­quest com­plete, ma­jor safety is­sues at the theme park have been ex­posed A lmost two years af­ter a fa­tal ac­ci­dent on the Thun­der River Rapids ride, at Gold Coast theme park Dreamworld, claimed four lives, t

WHO - - Contents - By Gavin Scott

“We are hor­ri­fied by the ev­i­dence” —Kate Good­child and Luke Dorsett’s fam­ily

ride op­er­a­tors had 57 sec­onds be­fore the sec­ond raft car­ry­ing the vic­tims col­lided with it. If the emer­gency but­ton had been pressed, it would have brought the ride to a halt within two sec­onds. Not only was that but­ton not clearly la­belled, ju­nior op­er­a­tor Court­ney Wil­liams, one of two Dreamworld em­ploy­ees in charge of the ride at the time of the col­li­sion, tes­ti­fied that she “didn’t know” it would stop the ride’s con­veyor belt mov­ing and was told dur­ing train­ing that she wouldn’t need to use it.

Em­ploy­ees had also been dis­cour­aged from us­ing the but­ton in a memo sent a week prior to the in­ci­dent, be­ing told to only press it if the “main con­trol panel can­not be reached.” That panel con­tained a “slow” stop but­ton, which took seven to nine sec­onds to bring the ride to a stand­still. “It is a con­fus­ing con­trol panel and that has been raised by the au­di­tors,” said De­tec­tive Sergeant

Brown. Rec­om­men­da­tions dat­ing back to 1999 had sug­gested the emer­gency process be sim­pli­fied.

Wil­liams, who told the in­quest that she felt un­der pres­sure not to talk to po­lice af­ter the ac­ci­dent, had re­ceived 90 min­utes of train­ing on the Thun­der River Rapids be­fore start­ing her first ever shift on the ride that morn­ing. “It was my first day, I wasn’t con­fi­dent op­er­at­ing the con­trol panel,” she said, adding that she felt her train­ing was not suf­fi­cient. In a video recorded five days af­ter the in­ci­dent, Amy Crisp, the Dreamworld em­ployee who trained Wil­liams, told po­lice that she had shown Wil­liams the emer­gency stop but­ton. “I pointed it out to her … When we got to the con­trol panel I de­scribed it to her in more de­tail be­cause that’s where we were do­ing the emer­gency stuff.” Crisp also said that she told Wil­liams, “‘If you hit that, it will stop your con­veyor and a pump’, and she un­der­stood that … She said, ‘ Yeah, yeah, I get it.’ ” Crisp did add that, “She didn’t need to know it yet and I knew she was a bit over­whelmed.”

Se­nior op­er­a­tor on the ride at the mo­ment of im­pact, Peter Nemeth, stated that he was “sur­prised” to learn that the emer­gency but­ton did not stop the ride im­mea­di­ately, and said that once he re­alised the empty raft was stuck, he had pressed the slow stop but­ton two or three times in an at­tempt to pre­vent the col­li­sion. Other ev­i­dence sug­gested Nemeth pushed the slow stop but­ton about 10 sec­onds af­ter the crash, while the op­er­a­tor him­self said that the Thun­der River Rapids was “more stress­ful” to op­er­ate than the park’s other rides due to the num­ber of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in­volved, which in­cluded 36 safety checks in less than a minute.

The fa­tal in­ci­dent, which oc­curred at 2 PM, was not the first time that day one of the ride’s wa­ter pumps had failed. Pump fail­ures had also oc­curred at 11.50 AM and 1.09 PM— in­for­ma­tion that had been given to Nemeth as he started his shift by his su­per­vi­sor, who said, “The pump has … gone down twice and if it hap­pens once more we would have to stop op­er­at­ing the ride for the day.” The only way for the ride to be stopped in the event of a pump fail­ure was by an

op­er­a­tor step­ping in and tak­ing ac­tion— there was no au­to­matic shut-off if wa­ter lev­els dropped too low. In­deed, the only way for op­er­a­tors to tell if the wa­ter had dropped was “just a stain on the wall,” ac­cord­ing to se­nior op­er­a­tor Ti­mothy Wil­liams, re­fer­ring to a scum mark that showed when the wa­ter level de­creased.

While two elec­tri­cal main­te­nance work­ers had re­sponded to the ear­lier faults, one of those staff mem­bers, Matthew Robert­son, told the in­quest, “They [main­te­nance staff ] were dis­tracted that day. There were other elec­tri­cal is­sues that needed to be re­solved in an­other area of the park. The elec­tri­cal de­part­ment were stretched re­source-wise on that par­tic­u­lar day.” The fit­ter and turner also ex­plained that it was left to his own judg­ment whether a spe­cific fault was dan­ger­ous, adding that faults could lead to as many as 20 shut­downs a day. On the day in ques­tion, the cause of the pump fault was not ex­am­ined—in­stead, the ride was merely re­set to get it up and run­ning again. Engi­neer­ing su­per­vi­sor Peter Gard­ner ad­mit­ted that the Thun­der River Rapids ride should not have been in ser­vice fol­low­ing the two ear­lier break­downs.

Seven months be­fore the fa­tal in­ci­dent, cut­backs in re­pairs and main­te­nance had been or­dered due to Dreamworld’s ex­pen­di­ture be­ing mas­sively over bud­get. Mark Thomp­son, who worked as the theme park’s safety man­ager at the time, said he re­quested a team of six to over­see work­place health and safety. “There was only one of me ... It made it hard for me to do proac­tive work when I was putting out for­est fires,” he tes­ti­fied. Fol­low­ing the ac­ci­dent, six safety pro­fes­sion­als were hired in early 2017.

Ev­i­dence of pre­vi­ous ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing the Thun­der River Rapids was also sub­mit­ted, with tes­ti­mony given about an “al­most iden­ti­cal in­ci­dent of rafts com­ing into con­tact” oc­cur­ring in Novem­ber 2014, fol­low­ing which a ride op­er­a­tor was re­port­edly fired. Other in­ci­dents were also dis­cussed, in­clud­ing one dat­ing back to 2001, which oc­curred dur­ing a pas­sen­ger-free dry run and in­volved a raft flip­ping. Fol­low­ing that in­ci­dent, a staff mem­ber emailed, “I shud­der when I think if there had been guests on the ride.”

Dur­ing Thomp­son’s cross-ex­am­i­na­tion, it emerged that a warn­ing about the po­ten­tial for rafts flip­ping had been deleted from the first aid pol­icy for the Thun­der River Rapids ride. “The rafts are very heavy and there is a lot of un­der­wa­ter ob­sta­cles that could cause the rafts to flip or en­trap a guest,” the warn­ing had read. Thomp­son tes­ti­fied that he had not been made aware of pre­vi­ous col­li­sions and sit­u­a­tions when rafts had flipped.

As the ev­i­dence con­cluded in the first stage of the in­quest, Ar­dent Leisure, Dreamworld’s par­ent com­pany, is­sued a state­ment on June 29 say­ing, “We ac­knowl­edge that shock­ing and deeply con­cern­ing ev­i­dence has been pre­sented at the coro­nial in­quest. We know that this has been a har­row­ing time for all, par­tic­u­larly the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies. We are sorry that they have had to re­live the trauma of that ter­ri­ble day in Oc­to­ber 2016.”

On the same day, Ar­dent Leisure CEO Craig David­son re­signed, with the com­pany seek­ing to re­cruit a new CEO. Com­pany chair­man Gary Weiss said in a state­ment, “Like ev­ery­one else, I have been deeply con­cerned by what has emerged from the in­quiry over the past fort­night. This is why it is im­por­tant that we lis­ten to the ev­i­dence, un­der­stand all we can and ap­ply the lessons learned to en­sure such ac­ci­dents never oc­cur at our parks.”

As Aus­tralian schools broke up for the win­ter school hol­i­days, the nor­mally busy Dreamworld has been de­scribed as re­sem­bling a “ghost town,” with fam­i­lies stay­ing away from the theme park.

The in­quest will re­sume in Oc­to­ber.

“We hold Dreamworld to­tally re­spon­si­ble for this tragic event” —the fam­i­lies of Kate Good­child and Luke Dorsett

Three days af­ter the ac­ci­dent that claimed four lives at Dreamworld, a can­dle­light vigil was held out­side the theme park on Oc­to­ber 28, 2016.

At the con­clu­sion of the ini­tial stage of the in­quest, Craig David­son stepped down from his po­si­tion as CEO of Ar­dent Leisure, the com­pany that owns Dreamworld.

Queens­land Emer­gency Ser­vice per­son­nel at­tended Dreamworld on Oc­to­ber 25, 2016, fol­low­ing the ac­ci­dent on the Thun­der River Rapids ride.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.