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Consulting engineer rebuts Australian Women’s Weekly ride safety ‘investigation’

Consulting engineer rebuts Australian Women’s Weekly ride safety ‘investigation’
April 16, 2017

In the wake of an investigative report into theme park ride safety in the Australian Women’s Weekly magazine, leading amusement ride consulting engineer Brian Bradley has written a lengthy rebuttal to assertions made in the article, as well as correcting a number of errors.

The Australian Women’s Weekly investigation comes in the wake of the deaths of four guests riding Dreamworld’s Thunder River Rapids ride last October, at a time when media outlets, both reputable and fringe, are subjecting all of Australia’s theme and amusement parks to massive scrutiny - with even minor ride malfunctions and closures being widely reported.

Mixing incidents at theme parks with those occurring on carnival rides at agricultural shows, the Australian Women’s Weekly article presents a confused narrative.

However, as one of Australia’s largest selling magazines, which claims that it “sets the agenda on what matters most to women”, Bradley, a widely respected and highly experienced consulting engineer to the amusement industry, has set out to correct what he sees as “misleading impression(s) to non-discerning readers.”

Bradley highlights that “your journalist/contributor has titled her article ‘theme parks’ but in the middle of page 51 lists only two theme park incidents that resulted in deaths; one in 1979 and one in 2014. I assume that she is in the process of ‘investigating’ other industries that have had 35 years with no deaths so that she can present a follow-up article on how unsafe those industries are?

“She includes in her list of ‘thrill ride tragedies’ a number of other amusement ride incidents, that did not occur at theme parks, but serve only to pad out her list of tragedies, presumably to try to convey a misleading impression to non-discerning readers. She fails to address the fact that from March 2001 until September 2014, a period of more than 13 years, there were not any, repeat not any, fatalities on the hundreds of amusement rides that travel all over Australia.

“These rides are erected and operated at capital city shows, regional shows, school fetes, street festivals and numerous other events where people gather for fun and enjoyment. These rides are mainly operated by family groups who have a long tradition of providing safe fun and amusement to Australian communities. Does your journalist/contributor give them any bouquets? Not likely, because that sort of compliment doesn’t meet her bias that wants to ‘prove’ theme parks are unsafe.

“Apparently she also wants to blame the theme park because ‘another guest fell into the water after standing up on a log ride’. Well, as that guest was supposed to stay seated (instructions?/signage?/ common sense?), who is really to blame if he/she decides to stand up and then falls into the water? There is such a concept as rider responsibility, which your journalist/contributor doesn’t bother to mention. Again, because it doesn’t fit with the bias of the article.”

Bradley goes on to state “the most glaring omission from the article is the complete absence of any reference to Australian Standards (specifically the AS3533 series) that deal with the design, construction, operation, maintenance and inspection of all amusement rides. Perhaps the ‘investigation’ by your journalist/contributor was so shallow and limited that she was not even aware that such Standards exist. Nor was she probably aware that Regulators from all States, industry representatives and other technically competent people contribute their time and expertise, in a voluntary capacity, to discuss and decide on the best design, operational and inspection methods and formulate standards, that are often ahead of the rest of the world, to guide the industry in the safe operation of rides.”

While unlikely to be published by Australian Women’s Weekly, which has yet to acknowledge the correspondence, Bradley’s letter can be read in full by clicking here.

Click here to view the original Australian Women’s Weekly feature. 

Images: The main image from the Australian Women’s Weekly feature - showing Sea World’s old Viper rollercoaster, retired in 2014 (top) and Dreamworld’s Thunder River Rapids ride, the scene of four fatalities last October (middle) and Brian Bradley below).

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