Roozi Araghi, Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett and Cindy Low were killed by the ride in 2016. Picture: Supplied
Roozi Araghi, Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett and Cindy Low were killed by the ride in 2016. Picture: Supplied

Dreamworld ride operators told not to press emergency button

UPDATE: A DREAMWORLD ride operator was unsure which emergency button to press to prevent the Thunder River Rapids ride tragedy, an inquest has heard.

The principal police investigator has told a packed Southport Coroners Court the main control panel for the ride was confusing and the operator had previously been deterred from using an immediate shutdown button.

On the opening day of the inquest into the October 25, 2016, tragedy which killed four people, the court also heard of a history of malfunctions on the Thunder River Rapids.

Detective Sergeant Nicola Brown said the water pump on the supposed family-friendly ride at the Gold Coast theme park stopped working twice in the hours before the fatal incident.

Det Sgt Brown said no engineering staff attended the second time, and that it was simply reset.

Less than an hour later, the pump stopped working a third time, resulting in the water level near the unloading point of the ride to drop so rafts were no longer buoyant but were sitting on maintenance rails.

A raft carrying six guests collided with an empty raft that was stuck on the rails, raising both into a vertical position.

Cindy Low, Kate Goodchild, her brother Luke Dorsett and his partner Roozi Araghi all died when they were thrown from the raft into the conveyor belt mechanism.

Det Sgt Brown said multiple safety recommendations such as the inclusion of an emergency stop button on the main control panel and the installation of CCTV footage for the unloading area operator were not implemented.

The inquest heard there were no sensors or guides on the ride for operators to determine when water levels had dropped to a dangerous point.

Det Sgt Brown said there had been a window of 57 seconds between the empty raft getting stuck on the conveyor and the collision which led to the tragedy. 

She said the main control panel for the ride was "confusing" and a ride operator at the time of the incident "wasn't sure which button to press" under the stress of the situation.

An emergency button at the unloading dock could have stopped the rafts from moving along the conveyor in two seconds, Det Sgt Brown said.

However, a memo had been sent to Dreamworld staff days before the tragedy warning the emergency stop button was not to be pressed unless there were certain specific circumstances.

Det Sgt Brown said the ride operator had been told "don't worry about that button, no one uses it".

Ms Goodchild's 12-year-old daughter and Ms Low's 10-year-old son survived the incident despite also being thrown out of the raft.

Counsel assisting Ken Fleming QC said the tragedy had been "felt Australia-wide", and the main aim of the inquest was to prevent any similar tragedies from happening again.

Among the relatives of the victims in the gallery are Ms Low's husband Matthew and Ms Goodchild's husband Dave Turner.

Dreamworld suffered steep falls in visitor numbers following the fatal accident and the park's subsequent 45-day shutdown.

Earlier, Det Sgt Brown told the inquest the pump failed at 11.50am and then again at 1.09pm before being reset.

No injuries or damage happened in either earlier incident.

"There's no evidence any engineering staff attended the second incident," Det Sgt Brown said.

"Nothing else seems to have been done apart from resetting the pump."

Det Sgt Brown said the third failure just after 2pm resulted in the water level near the unloading point of the ride dropping "significantly and quite quickly".

 

EARLIER: THE long-awaited inquest into the deaths of four people at Gold Coast theme park Dreamworld has begun.

Cindy Low, 42, Kate Goodchild, 32, her brother Luke Dorsett, 35, and his partner Roozi Araghi, 38, lost their lives on the Thunder River Rapids Ride in October 2016.

The four ride passengers were killed instantly from compressive and crushing injuries when they were caught in a malfunctioning mechanism on what was billed as a tame family friendly attraction.

Ms Goodchild's 12-year-old daughter and Ms Low's 10-year-old son were on the raft that flipped at the end of the ride, but survived.

An internal staff email from 2001 has been shown in court, detailing Dreamworld's fears about the 30-year-old ride.

"I shudder when I think if there had been guests on the ride," a staff member said via email at the time, the inquest heard.

Queen's Counsel Ken Fleming told the court this morning the four tragic deaths were "sadly … both violent and unnatural".

The two main investigating police officers, Detective Inspector Mark Thompson and principal investigator Detective Sergeant Nicola Brown, are set to give their versions of events on Monday.

Over 50 witnesses are listed for the first two weeks of the inquest, which will examine how the event unfolded on the day and the response.

The families have sought answers and relatives of Ms Low have said how they hoped the probe would prevent others from suffering "such enormous heartbreak".

Dreamworld suffered steep falls in visitor numbers following the fatal accident and the park's subsequent 45-day shutdown.

Before Monday's inquest, several hearings were held and attended by lawyers for the four victims, Dreamworld chief executive Craig Davidson, Dreamworld's parent company Ardent Leisure and the Office of Industrial Relations.

Dreamworld CEO Craig Davidson (centre) arriving at the pre-inquest hearing in April. Picture: Glenn Hunt
Dreamworld CEO Craig Davidson (centre) arriving at the pre-inquest hearing in April. Picture: Glenn Hunt

At a conference in April at the Brisbane Coroners Court, it was suggested the inquest be held in two parts.

Coroner James McDougall last month ordered the list of witnesses needed to attend the inquest be finalised by June 1.

Final evidence submissions were to be made by June 8.


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