In a horrifying and tragic accident, four people have been killed at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast when a water-ride raft overturned, tipping two riders into the conveyer mechanism and trapping two more under the raft.
The Thunder River Rapids ride has been operating since 1986 and is considered a family friendly and safe ride, described as a moderate thrill ride by the park. Riders sit in a circular raft buoyed by large rubber tyres and travel through a rapid-style watercourse, emulating a fast flowing river. Park rules specify riders must be at least 120cm tall and straps are used to secure riders.
The victims have been identified as Canberra mother Kate Goodchild, 32, her brother Luke Dorsett, 35, and his partner Roozi Araghi, 38, as well as an unidentified 42-year-old New Zealand woman.
The park has been closed indefinitely.
Dreamworld released a statement saying it is working as quickly as possible to establish the facts around the incident and is working closely with emergency authorities and police to do this. Dreamworld’s focus and priority is with the families of those involved in this tragedy and will be providing an update to the public as soon as information becomes available.
Dreamworld’s Facebook page says: “Dreamworld is currently closed until further notice due to an incident at the park. We are deeply shocked and saddened by the incident; our hearts and thoughts go out to the families involved and their loved ones.”
Floral tributes have been laid outside the park.
As well as the loss of life and devastating consequences for the family and friends of the deceased, the horrific accident has badly affected patrons, responders and staff.
Two children spared
In what police have described as “almost a miracle”, two children escaped the tragedy. The police have reviewed CCTV footage and witnessed the lucky escape of the a 10-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl.
Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner Brian Codd says the children escaped as the raft flipped.
“In terms of how they escaped, maybe through the providence of God,” he says. “From what I have seen, it’s almost a miracle that anybody came out of that. If we are going to be thankful for anything I am thankful for that.”
A coronial investigation is underway and those who witnessed the incident are being offered counselling.
The Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says anyone needing counselling will be offered it and that a thorough investigation will be held.
She says this is the worst theme park tragedy Queensland has seen.
“That is why this investigation needs to be thorough,” she says, adding that the initial focus will be the actual rides, the policies and the procedures.
The Australian Workers Union (AWU) lodged a safety complaint with Dreamworld owner Ardent Leisure 18 months ago after a separate incident involving a different ride. AWU Queensland secretary Ben Swan says that in the interests of workers at the park facility, as well as the patrons, it is important there is a full inquiry.
Channel Nine news is saying there are reports that the ride had malfunction earlier in the day.
There are also Facebook posts highlighting perceived safety issues, including issues with belts.
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate says it is a very sad day for the city.
“Our thoughts are with the families of those affected and the emergency staff in attendance,” he says. “I urge everyone to show the respect needed as the relevant authorities undertake investigations in to what has occurred. A truly sad day for all.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull expressed his condolences, saying he expects there to be a thorough investigation.
“Theme parks are a place for family fun and happiness, not tragedy,” he says. “This is a very, very sad and tragic event. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives.”
Caption: Police investigate the tragic accident at the Thunder River Rapids ride at Dreamworld. ABC News