The theme park is re-opening on Friday the 28th of October, putting an end to rumors it will never open again.
All of this at the same time as chilling pictures emerge of the battered raft that flipped and threw passengers onto conveyor belt…
- Dreamworld theme park on the Gold Coast will re-open on Friday morning
- Four people died in a horrific incident on the Thunder River Rapids ride
- Two children lucky to be alive after being miraculously thrown from raft
- Lawyers told Daily Mail Australia park could face prosecution and lawsuits
Australian theme park Dreamworld will open its doors again to the public just three days after four people were tragically and brutally killed on a malfunctioning ride.
Chilling images captured by Channel 9 reveal the mangled wreckage of a six-person raft being lifted away from the Thunder River Rapids ride on Wednesday night.
It’s believed the raft, with dangling seatbelts and a torn-up frame, is the same raft that flipped backwards on the ride’s conveyor belt on Tuesday afternoon – killing four adult passengers but miraculously leaving two children unscathed.
Lawyers say park owners could face substantial negligence claims and employees who may have been responsible could be sentenced to up to five years behind bars.
But on Wednesday afternoon the Gold Coast park confirmed the gates would open up to the public at 11am on Friday, with entry proceeds going to Australian Red Cross charity.
‘Activities will be limited to smaller rides, animal attractions, and the water park,’ Dreamworld said in a statement.
The reopening follows revelations the ride’s emergency stop switch was reportedly being controlled by an 18-year-old woman on her first day on the job.
A former Dreamworld employee also claimed that the ‘family’ ride had been plagued by technical problems since its opening in 1986 and had a ‘potentially fatal flaw.’
HOW THEME PARK CATASTROPHE HAPPENED: Four people – two men and two women – were killed in a raft ride disaster at the Gold Coast’s Dreamworld on Tuesday. Miraculously, two children were catapulted out of the fatal raft and survived with only minor injuries
Investigators say the six-person raft flipped, crushing and drowning two Canberra men, aged 38 and 35, and two women, aged 42 and 32, about 2.20pm on Tuesday.
The victims have been named as 32-year-old Kate Goodchild, her 35-year-old brother Luke Dorsett, his partner Roozi Araghi, 38, and Cindy Low, 42.
Mrs Goodchild’s 12-year-old daughter Ebony and Mrs Low’s 10-year-old son Kieran were both miraculously thrown from the boat and survived with only minor injuries.
The two kids, released from hospital on Wednesday morning, were said to have seen their parents’ gruesome deaths.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Mrs Goodchild’s husband David watched the entire horrific scene unfold as he waited at the ride’s finish line.
He desperately raced towards her as he heard the piercing scream of his own daughter and wife, but was too late.
Likewise, Mrs Low’s husband Matthew was enjoying the day with his 6-year-old daughter Isla when he heard the sound of screams coming from the rapids.
It’s believed that Mrs Low agreed to be separated from her husband and daughter to fill a raft with her son Kieran and four other strangers.
By the time Mr Low arrived at the scene, his wife was dead.
Mrs Low’s family released a statement following the freak accident.
‘The family of Ms Cindy Low has requested privacy and respect at this time of loss and sadness,’ the statement read.
‘The family are traumatised and kindly request that their privacy be respected as they try to come to terms with this tragic loss.’
Mourners gathered outside the theme park on Wednesday night to hold a candlelight vigil
More than 30 detectives scoured the park on Wednesday, including specialist engineers and scientific police, all closely inspecting the ride.
Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner Brian Codd said he had viewed graphic CCTV footage of the incident in a media conference.
‘I have seen CCTV footage. It seems from what I’ve seen it’s almost a miracle anyone came out of it,’ he said.
‘If we’re going to be thankful for anything, I’m thankful for that.
‘Two of those (rafts) have come together and as a result one has flipped backwards and it has caught and tossed some of the people that were on the ride backwards on the conveyor belt.
‘They (the children) were thrown at one part from the ride and then managed to extricate themselves.’
He added that the investigation would be thorough to ensure that such a horrific accident would never happen again.
‘We will be pursuing the full coronial process and that normally will examine these things from the engineering and prevention perspective.’
‘But if and where there is criminal aspects including negligence that warrant being pursued, we’ll do that.’
Dreamworld’s operators could possibly face prosecution by workplace health and safety authorities and civil claims of negligence, lawyers told Daily Mail Australia.
Alison Barrett, a personal injuries principal at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers’, said the company could face fines of up to $3 million if prosecuted and found guilty of negligence.
If directors of Dreamworld were found personally liable and successfully prosecuted, Ms Barrett said they could face fines of up to $600,000 or up to five years jail.
The dependents of the dead could launch civil negligence claims for compensation. So too could any witnesses who suffered psychological injuries.
But Ms Barrett told Daily Mail Australia the company is likely to have civil liability insurance – but the biggest impact might be on its reputation with the public.
‘Potentially a bigger impact on them is other financial implications – the knock on effect in relation to people not wanting to attend the park,’ Ms Barrett said.
‘I’ve got two young children, I live on the Gold Coast.
‘Like me, every other Queenslander who has visited Dreamworld want answers and want a level of reassurance this ride, and other rides, will be safe’.
Ms Barrett told the Courier Mail: ‘A tragedy like this isn’t an act of God, it’s not a freak accident.’
Dreamworld CEO Craig Davidson fronted the media on Wednesday afternoon, saying the ‘entire’ team were devastated and shocked.
Mr Davidson didn’t dwell on the future of the theme park – instead pledging his support for the two children who witnessed the deaths of their mothers.
‘(I) acknowledge the impact of the event on the two children who are involved in this tragedy,’ he said.
‘These children will have our support into the future.’ He did not specify whether this would involve financial compensation.
It comes as a former Dreamworld employee claimed that the Thunder River Rapids ride had a ‘potentially fatal flaw’ since it was first opened back in 1986.
Jon Armstrong told news.com.au that he worked as a ride operator on the ride for six months in 1987, during which he witnessed a ‘similar problem’ unfold.
The 51-year-old from southern Queensland told the publication that during ‘start-up duties’ – which involved a list of safety check-ups prior to the park opening – one of the rafts flipped on the conveyor belt while still attached to its rope mooring.
‘I was unaware this particular morning that one raft had two mooring lines attached by the overnight maintenance crew, the second rope being hidden on the far side of the raft and submerged,’ he said.
‘When the ride started, this raft stuck and caused three other rafts to flip on the conveyor and four more to ‘mount’ the flipped rafts.
‘It’s lucky there was no one on board because if there had been, their body parts would have been pushed under the water … and at that part, the water’s deep.’
After the incident he said there was a formal investigation and a number of safety procedures were tightened to ensure rafts were not tied up during opening hours.
According to a media statement released by Dreamworks on Wednesday, the Thunder River Rapids ride had successfully completed an annual safety inspection on 29 September 2016.
The safety audit was conducted by a specialist engineering firm and details of its findings will be provided to the Coroner and workplace safety investigators.
‘In my capacity as a Safety Professional, I have been involved with Ardent Leisure conducting safety audits against the National Audit Tool over a period of the last six years,’ said Dr David Randall, Director of DRA Safety Specialists.
‘Dreamworld under the leadership of Craig Davidson, the CEO has demonstrated a commitment to developing and maintaining a strong safety culture across all departments. Annual audits have resulted in continuous improvement in the management of safety.’
‘A number of consultancy visits to assist in the implementation have been undertaken and include regular training programs with the Senior Leadership Team which have kept them abreast of legislative requirements and changes.’
After the incident happened, Dreamworld owner Ardent Leisure’s share prices fell 7.8 per cent.
Ardent Leisure is an Australian leisure and entertainment company listed on the Australian Securities Exchange and is on the S&P/ASX 200 benchmark index, according to its website.
The company’s portfolio of businesses include Dreamworld, WhiteWater World and the Gold Coast’s SkyPoint observation deck.
Ardent Leisure also runs AMF and Kingpin Bowling, d’Albora Marinas, Goodlife Health Clubs and HYPOXI.
The company also has interest overseas with Main Event that is ‘a growing portfolio of family entertainment assets in the United States’.
This is not the first time Dreamworld has been at the centre of a terrible incident.
Samson Sherrin, 19, almost drowned in April on the Log Ride that uses the same conveyor system as the deadly Thunder River Rapids, News Corp reported.
The teenager was unconscious in the water when two boats ran over him before he was rescued by a friend who was with him at the time.
The 19-year-old had fractures to his hip, rib and ankle as well as neck and head injuries.
Mr Sherrin had acute respiratory failure, and still suffers mentally and physically from the incident.
‘He’s been knocked unconscious… his clothes were torn. He’s suffered a lower back injury, a groin injury because it kind of gouged him around that area,’ the teenager’s lawyer, Sugath Wijedoru, said.
Mr Wijedoru said his client was left ‘really distressed, really quite upset’ by the news of the latest incident on Tuesday afternoon.
Mr Sherrin has lodged a public liability claim and he alleged the theme park neglected its duties.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Mr Wijedoru for further comment on the matter.
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 theme park remains closed until Friday as police continue to investigate and mourners gather outside to leave tributes.
Dozens of bouquets lined the entrance at Dreamworld as school students and tearful parents paid tribute to the four people who died on the Thunder River Rapids ride.
The Gold Coast community has been rocked by the tragic news.
‘We come here all the time. My mum was pretty upset to be honest. I think everyone has been on that ride,’ Jasmin said as she laid a pink bouquet of flowers.
Three school students were among those who paid tribute on Wednesday morning and their mother said she was unsure how to explain the tragedy to the young girls.