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Coroner seeks proof that all Dreamworld rides had safety certification
The Coroner presiding over the Dreamworld inquest has demanded to see certificates proving all of the theme park’s rides were properly registered, specifically focusing on the five years leading up to the Thunder River Rapids tragedy of October 2016.
Speaking at the inquest into the deaths of four guests at the Gold Coast theme park, Coroner James McDougall said it was “extraordinary” the Queensland Office of Industrial Relations still hadn’t provided evidence, more than three weeks into the inquest, relating to the proper registration of rides.
As reported by the Gold Coast Bulletin, it is apparently unclear which of Dreamworld’s rides were properly registered under Queensland’s workplace health and safety laws, which require an external engineer to sign them off once a year.
Queensland Office of Industrial Relations lawyer Stephen Gray told the inquest he was unaware if the regulator knew Dreamworld was completing the required inspections.
Coroner McDougall commented “that’s an extraordinary statement.
“We’re almost 14 days into this inquest and the regulator hasn’t gone away to its records to see if there’s proof of inspection of rides carried out at Dreamworld over the past five years.
“You are aware that Dreamworld has been in existence for the past five years and millions of people have been attending.”
Dreamworld lawyer Bruce Hodgkinson interjected and said the theme park had been completing its own internal inspections with a senior engineer and had been filling out online forms for the regulator.
McDougall told counsel assisting the coroner Ken Fleming, QC, it “could well be an issue” if there was no requirement to produce some form of written documentation proving that rides had been signed off.
The Coroner has demanded proof all of Dreamworld’s rides were properly certified up until 2016.
It has emerged that 15 years before the Thunder River Rapids ride claimed the lives of Cindy Low, Luke Dorsett, Kate Goodchild and Roozi Araghi, a number of empty rafts flipped and were crushed on the conveyor.
Back in January 2001, a Dreamworld operator starting up the Thunder River Rapids ride became distracted talking to guests, which led to a number of rafts flipping over onto the conveyor.
Photographs shown at the inquest revealed the extent of the damage to the ride’s rafts with many of the seats broken and splintered.
After that incident, Dreamworld staff spoke to Workplace Health and Safety over the telephone and it was agreed that the theme park could conduct its own internal investigation into the incident.
The investigation, in its final outcome, found the two problems were that “the operation of start-up procedure was not adhered to” and “the operator did not follow correct emergency response procedure”.
The investigation also asked if the same situation could occur if there were guests on board.
The report stated “after review of all the operational procedures, it was concluded that the possibility of this same event occurring with guests on rafts is nil.”
The report then went on to list the procedures that should’ve been followed to prevent the accident.
In 2014, the harrowing 2001 photographs were shared in an email by Bob Tan, a highly respected former Engineering Manager for the theme park who left Dreamworld prior to the October 2016 fatalities.
Tan wrote “I shudder when I think if there had been guests on the rafts.”
In ongoing questioning, Andrew Fyfe, Attractions Manager at the time of the fatalities was asked by Fleming “given this was something under your responsibility, you would’ve preferred to have known about it?”
Fyfe replied “of course.
Earlier, the inquest again heard from external consulting engineer Thomas Polley, who took the stand for a second day.
In a draft report dated 24th October 2016, Polley declared the Thunder River Rapids ride “mechanically and structurally sound”.
Polley emailed Dreamworld’s General Manager of Engineering Chris Deaves and junior engineer Gen Cruz a day before the tragedy.
He wroter “please find attached my draft report for the annual inspections of your Class 2 devices.
“Please get back to me at your earliest convenience after you have considered my draft report. I will begin sending 13 individual certificate/reports for the 13 Class 2 devices.”
Dreamworld was reportedly under pressure to have the Thunder River Rapids certified before the end of September, the date the ride would become unregistered.
Polley told the inquest he was never provided with daily or annual maintenance updates.
The consulting engineer admitted he felt “some professional obligation to Dreamworld to get them out of the awful predicament they were in”.
Hickey asked Polley if he understood he had some “professional obligation” to the general public “to keep them safe”.
He responded “I fully understand that.”
Image: Dreamworld’s Thunder River Rapids ride in operation prior to the October 2016 fatalities.
16th October 2018 - Coroner seeks to have Dreamworld inquest extended
15th October 2018 - Dreamworld inquest told $3,000 water level sensor would have prevented tragedy
9th October 2018 - Staff to sue Dreamworld over ‘significant psychological injuries’
27th August 2018 - Dreamworld looks to attract visitors with entry fee drop and LEGO exhibition
22nd August 2018 - Ardent Leisure losses grow as Dreamworld’s value declines by $75 million
30th July 2018 - Ride fatalities aftermath continues to drive down Dreamworld’s value
1st July 2018 - Coronial inquest claims Dreamworld Chief Executive
22nd June 2018 - Dreamworld ride operator ‘distressed’ over inquest role
18th June 2018 - Coronial inquest begins into 2016 Dreamworld fatalities
28th October 2016 - Dreamworld defends safety record after revelations of past breaches
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