Park heav­ies avoid heat

Dream­world bosses won’t be called at in­quest

The Gold Coast Bulletin - - NEWS - GREG STOLZ

DREAM­WORLD bosses are set to es­cape a grilling at the in­quest into the Thun­der River Rapids ride tragedy which left four peo­ple dead.

The in­quest is ex­pected to fin­ish to­day af­ter more than six weeks of sit­tings, with­out two key fig­ures fac­ing in­ter­ro­ga­tion over Aus­tralia’s worst theme park dis­as­ter.

For­mer Dream­world chief ex­ec­u­tive Craig David­son and the ex-CEO of par­ent com­pany Ar­dent Leisure, Deb­o­rah Thomas, have not been called to give ev­i­dence at the in­quest de­spite both be­ing in charge at the time of the Oc­to­ber 2016 tragedy.

Mr David­son both re­signed ear­lier this year and re­ceived pay­outs to­talling more than $1.3 mil­lion. He has had his own bar­ris­ter at the in­quest, while Ar­dent is also rep­re­sented.

A suc­ces­sion of Dream­world staff, from young ride oper­a­tors through to for­mer op­er­a­tions man­ager Troy Mar­getts and safety boss An­gus Hutch­ings, have been grilled at the coro­nial hear­ing, with some mak­ing emo­tional apolo­gies to the fam­i­lies of the four vic­tims.

Coun­sel as­sist­ing the in­quest, Ken Flem­ing QC, said there were “good and valid rea­sons” why Mr David­son and Ms Thomas had not been called but he could not elab­o­rate.

Yes­ter­day, the in­quest heard de­tails of a damn­ing re­port into the dis­as­ter by a panel of three ex­pert en­gi­neers com­mis­sioned to ad­vise Coro­ner James McDougall as he frames his rec­om­men­da­tions.

The panel found there were “ob­vi­ous” haz­ards on the Thun­der River Rapids ride that should have been rec­ti­fied.

These in­cluded the re­moval of wooden slats on the con­veyor, leav­ing an “ex­ces­sive gap” that posed “a sig­nif­i­cant risk of in­jury to any per­son who fell onto the con­veyor whilst it was in op­er­a­tion”.

Tourists Cindy Low, Kate Good­child, her brother Luke Dorsett and his part­ner Roozi Araghi were killed when a pump mal­func­tioned for the third time on the day of the dis­as­ter and wa­ter lev­els plunged, caus­ing their raft to flip on the con­veyor.

One of the ex­pert en­gi­neers, Dr Frank Grigg, told the hear­ing he be­lieved at least one of the four would still be alive had the rafts been fit­ted with air­craft-style seat­belts.

“Why vel­cro (seat belts) were used is a mys­tery to me,” he said. The in­quest was also told of pro­posed sweep­ing changes to theme park safety laws in Queens­land in the wake of the tragedy.

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