Ardent Leisure, the parent company of Dreamworld, has been charged under Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Act over the 2016 incident that killed four people when the Gold Coast theme park’s Thunder River Rapids ride malfunctioned.
In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange today, Ardent Leisure said three charges - relating to an alleged failure to comply with a health and safety duty that exposes an individual to a risk of death or serious injury - had been filed against the company in the Brisbane Magistrates Court.
The charges, which are scheduled to be heard in the Southport Magistrates Court on 29th July each carry a maximum penalty of $1.5 million.
Significantly, the charges are against the company with Dreamworld executives responsible for the safety at the attraction escaping individual prosecution.
The four victims died when their raft on the Thunder River Rapids Ride collided with an empty raft and flipped on 25th October 2016.
Released in February, the report from the Coronial inquest into the deaths of Cindy Low, Kate Goodchild, her brother Luke Dorsett and his partner Roozbeh 'Roozi' Araghi identified a series of failures at the park, including safety and maintenance systems that were described as "rudimentary at best" and "frighteningly unsophisticated".
Delivering his findings earlier this year, Coroner James McDougall said there had been a "systemic failure by Dreamworld in relation to all aspects of safety" and that he was referring parent company Ardent Leisure to the Queensland Office of Industrial Relations for a possible breach of workplace laws.
At the time, Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said an experienced independent prosecutor would examine the Coroner's findings and material to determine what - if any - breaches had occurred.
According to Work Health and Safety, it is alleged Ardent Leisure had failed to ensure "so far as reasonably practicable" the provision and maintenance of safe plant and structures, and safe systems of work.
It has been further alleged the company failed to ensure the "provision of information, training, instruction or supervision that was necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety arising from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business".
The independent Work Health and Safety prosecutor, Aaron Guilfoyle, said he does not intend to lay any further charges. This follows Queensland Police having last year recommended that no Dreamworld employees should face criminal charges.
Minister Grace today advised that said she welcomed the charges, stating “(they were) a recommendation from the Coroner to the Independent Health and Safety prosecutor and those charges have now been laid in the courts.
"They are the maximum charges that are in the Act, and the prosecutor is independent and we respect his decision, and we await the outcomes from the courts."
In its statement to the ASX, Ardent Leisure again expressed its "deepest sympathies" to the victims' loved ones, advising “there has been considerable change at Dreamworld over the last few years as was acknowledged by the coroner in his report.”
The statement did not advise what action the company will take in response to the charges.
Since the deaths, the Queensland Government has introduced industrial manslaughter laws. However, these laws will not be applied retroactively.
Dreamworld closed for six weeks after the fatalities, and the Thunder River Rapids ride was subsequently demolished.
Images: Dreamworld's former Thunder River Rapids Ride (top) and (below, from left) Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett, Roozi Araghi and Cindy Low who died on the ride in 2016.(Supplied/Facebook).
18th June 2020 - Ardent Leisure shareholders launch class action over Dreamworld deaths
5th June 2020 - Ardent and Village Roadshow look for early reopening of Gold Coast theme parks
25th February 2020 - Ardent Leisure faces possible prosecution over 2016 ride deaths
25th February 2020 - Ardent Leisure shares fall after critical Coroner’s report into Dreamworld tragedy
24th February 2020 - Coroner’s report on Dreamworld fatalities exposes Ardent Leisure to prosecution for multiple safety breaches
17th October 2019 - Ardent Leisure raises Dreamworld ticket costs
28th June 2019 - Ardent Leisure facing potential $80 million liability in wake of Dreamworld inquest
8th April 2019 - Ardent Leisure borrows $225 million for attractions investment
30th June 2018 - Ardent Leisure issues statement of apology over Dreamworld deaths
10th July 2020 - Coronavirus impact sees Dreamworld make 50 positions redundant
24th June 2020 - Shutdown impacts Dreamworld’s plans for construction of new rollercoaster
25th February 2020 - Queensland Government announces acceptance of Coroner’s findings into 2016 Dreamworld ride deaths
8th February 2020 - Dreamworld permanently closes Rocky Hollow Log Ride
9th March 2019 - Dreamworld announces permanent closure of The WipeOut
7th March 2019 - Dreamworld advises appointment of safety engineering expert
22nd February 2019 - Village Roadshow report rising earnings and record-breaking January period for theme parks while writing off Dreamworld as competition
6th December 2018 - Final days of inquest into Dreamworld fatalities sees calls for new initiatives in theme park safety
19th October 2018 - Coroner seeks proof that all Dreamworld rides had safety certification
19th October 2018 - Dreamworld manager denies obstructing Queensland Police investigation during emotional Coronial inquiry testimony
12th October 2018 - Dreamworld inquest delay as Ardent Leisure accused of being slow to hand over documents
21st October 2017 - Queensland Police say no staff should be prosecuted over 2016 Dreamworld deaths
29th October 2016 - Queensland Government to undertake ‘safety blitz’ on theme parks
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