A coroner has condemned Dreamworld over its failures leading up to the deaths of four passengers on the Thunder River Rapids fun ride, saying it was “very fortunate” nobody was killed on the ride prior to the 2016 tragedy.
In the Brisbane Magistrates Court, Coroner James McDougall handed down his scathing report into the 2016 tragedy at Dreamworld, which claimed the lives of Cindy Low, Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett and Roozi Araghi.
“The gravity, scope and complexity of the tragedy at Australia’s largest theme park is unparalleled in Queensland’s history and was carried out … with the eyes of the world watching,” Mr McDougall said as he began to read a summary of his 300-page finding in the court.
Ardent Leisure Theme Parks Division Chief Executive Officer John Osborne has responded outside court.
Ardent Leisure, owner and operator of Dreamworld, has received the coroner’s findings and recommendations released today, 24th of February 2020, following the coronial inquest into the Thunder River Rapids Ride tragedy on the 25th of October 2016.
First and foremost, we express our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of Roozbeh Araghi, Luke Dorsett, Kate Goodchild and Cindy Low. Our thoughts are also with the first responders, emergency services personnel, investigators, counsellors and Dreamworld team members affected by this tragedy.
We would like to acknowledge the attendance and involvement of the families, witnesses and all other participants in the inquest process, as well as the coroner and his team.
We will now review the coroner’s report in detail before providing a further response tomorrow.
The coroner has concluded his recommendations and is now giving his thanks and respect to the families of the victims.
The inquest is now closed.
Thomas Polley was contracted by Dreamworld to complete the theme park’s annual safety compliance inspections eight days before the ride malfunctioned.
The coroner found his inspection fell below standards and recommended the Board of Engineers investigate taking disciplinary action.
Coroner McDougall also refers external engineer Thomas Polley for review by his registering board.
“It is arguable that Mr Polley’s conduct in issuing the … certification for the Thunder River Rapids Ride … without any documentation pertaining to the ride being supplied by the park and failure to properly inspect the ride was a failure which falls below the industry standards expected of a registered engineer in Queensland,” the coroner says.
“For this reason, I refer his conduct to the board of professional engineers of Queensland.”
Coroner McDougall has referred Ardent Leisure, which owns Dreamworld, to the Office of Industrial Relations and recommended it consider prosecuting the company.
He believes the company may have committed an offence under workplace law.
The second recommendation is for the Board of Engineers to continue efforts to address the lack of qualified engineers in Queensland who are able to audit amusement rides.
The coroner’s first recommendations go to the Office of Industrial Relations, that:
- Regulatory changes be made in Queensland to improve the inspection and licensing of major amusement parks;
- Owners of an amusement ride must comply with updated Australian standards;
- Annual risk assessments be undertaken by a qualified engineer of all aspects of a ride’s operation, including possible emergencies; and
- Full inspections should be undertaken of rides every five to 10 years.
The coroner is now making his recommendations.
Coroner McDougall notes the safety certificate issued for the Thunder River Rapids Ride just weeks before the tragedy.
The certificate was issued by external engineer Thomas Polley, although he had not been provided with paperwork detailing the ride’s safety audits.
His issuing of the certificate “fell below the industry standards expected of a registered practising engineer in Queensland, particularly those charged with inspecting theme park rides”, the coroner says.
Since the tragedy, Dreamworld has reviewed its operating procedures, added more emergency drills and increased training, the coroner notes.