Aquatics and Commercial

Dreamworld ride operators didn’t know of emergency stop button, inquest told

June 20, 2018
Police investigating the tragic accident at the Thunder River Rapids ride at Dreamworld in October 2016. ABC News

Ride operators on the Thunder River Rapids ride at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast didn’t know there was an emergency stop button which would have shut down the ride within two seconds, an inquest into four deaths on the ride has heard.

The inquest is looking into the deaths of Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett, Roozi Araghi and Cindy Low who were crushed by the ride in October 2016.

On the second day of the inquest at Southport Coroners Court, the court was told by senior ride operator Peter Nemeth that his colleague, the other operator of the ride, Courtney Williams, had only started that day and had only been trained that morning.

Neither of the operators knew the “emergency stop button”  near the junior operator would stop the ride within two seconds. Instead, Nemeth said he used the red stop button near him two or three times before the rafts collided. The red stop button takes eight seconds to work and the conveyor had not stopped by the time the rafts collided.

It was the collision between the rafts that resulted in the deaths of the four people.

Forensic investigation

Earlier, a forensic crash investigator said his investigation indicated the button had been pushed after the rafts had already collided and that he found nothing faulty in the various components of the ride, but said there was no automated safety, and that the safety aspects relied on human intervention.

Nemeth said he was surprised to learn there was a faster emergency stop button near the junior operator that could halt the conveyor within two seconds, and that he could have shut the ride down more quickly if he’d known.

The court heard Williams told police she was not aware what the emergency stop switch was for.

Later, Nemeth confirmed under cross examination that he had no first aid or CPR training, and had never received emergency response training. He had not been warned of the risk of rafts tipping over, and though he had been told an that electrical failure could stop the conveyor belt, there was no mention that it would present a danger to guests.

Pump failure and task overload

The court also heard that one of ride’s two large pumps failed twice that morning, before the third failure caused the water levels to drop significantly, leaving one raft stranded on a conveyor belt – resulting in the collision. It also heard there was no water level monitor at the bottom of the ride where the accident occured.

Nemeth told the court that the Thunder River Rapids ride was more stressful to operate than other rides. He had to watch the water pumps, electrical issues, and three different lines of visitors while also overseeing the junior operator.

He agreed with barrister Matthew Hickey, acting for Ms Low’s family, that it would have made his job easier to have some of those responsibilities removed.

Hickey later recited a series of tasks listed in the operator handbook that an operator was supposed to complete in one minute, including 20 tasks to load a raft and 16 items to monitor.

Nemeth agreed with him that it is impossible for a human being to do all of those things in less than a minute.

The inquest continues.


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