Australia’s Dreamworld in damage-control mode after riders’ deaths

The Gold Coast’s largest theme park is scrambling after four adults died on a water ride. Reports alleging improper maintenance are emerging.

With one crash, a day at an Australian theme park turned tragic.

Four adults died on the park’s Thunder River Rapids ride after their raft collided with another raft, tossing them onto the ride’s conveyor belt and trapping them in the machinery.

Two children, ages 10 and 12, survived the accident.

The BBC reported:

Queensland assistant police commissioner Brian Codd said it was “almost a miracle that anybody came out of that”, adding: “If we’re going to be thankful for anything, I’m thankful for that.”

Following the accident, Dreamworld tweeted the following messages:

At time of publication, the same messages appear on the theme park’s website.

On Tuesday, Dreamworld’s owner, Ardent Leisure Group, issued a statement that read in part:

Dreamworld is working as quickly as possible to establish the facts around the incident and is working closely with the police, emergency services and authorities to do this.

Dreamworld’s focus and priority is with the families of those involved in this tragedy and will be providing and update to the public as soon as information becomes available.

Dreamworld will remain closed tomorrow as a mark of respect for the victims and their families.

The closing might be short-lived, however.

On Wednesday, Dreamworld issued a statement and announced that the it would hold a “Memorial Day” on Friday:

We hope this will be considered the start of the healing process for all concerned.

From the Memorial Day, activities will be limited to smaller rides, animal attractions, and the water park.

“All entry proceeds will go to the Red Cross, which has been helping the affected families,” the BBC reported.

No word has been given on whether the park will be open after its “Memorial Day.”

Critics say accident does ‘not come as a surprise.’

As investigators look into the accident, many place the tragedy’s blame on Dreamworld.

The Australian Workers’ Union alleged that Dreamworld’s management knew of safety issues with its rides but didn’t fix them.

The Financial Review reported:

The union says it has repeatedly raised concerns since 2015 and as recently as three weeks before the accident that claimed the lives of four people at the Gold Coast park.

AWU Queensland secretary Ben Swan said “categorically” the accident will “not come as a surprise” to Dreamworld management.

“This wasn’t just a single event of raising an issue, this has been ongoing for 18 months or more.”

The Guardian reported that a 2012 inspection deemed 13 of the park’s rides “not fit for service” due to its air receivers.

The Guardian explained:

Air receivers are part of air compression systems that help to store compressed air. These types of systems can be used on amusement rides to propel rides along at speed, for instance as part of a rollercoaster.

A factsheet published by Safe Work Australia said they can “explode and cause serious injuries or death if they are not adequately inspected and maintained, or if they have been operated above the design pressure”.

The Guardian reported that the issue had not been resolved:

In an email to Workplace Health and Safety [the inspector] said: “I issued corrective actions for all of the vessels examined and declared all of the vessels not fit for service, including the requirement for registration of the plant with QLD Workplace Health and Safety.”

He said Dreamworld’s engineer had told him they were exempt from registration requirements because they were part of the amusement park.

Twitter users are sharing visitor reviews such as the following, which detail broken or malfunctioning rides:

Both Dreamworld and Ardent Leisure have declined to answer reporters’ questions about the maintenance allegations.

Dreamworld is the largest theme park on Australia’s Gold Coast, hosting roughly 1.8 million visitors each year. After the tragedy, Bloomberg reported that Ardent Leisure’s shares fell “as much as 22 percent” on Wednesday.

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