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Dreamworld ride trainer told Police that junior operator knew about emergency shutdown

Dreamworld ride trainer told Police that junior operator knew about emergency shutdown
June 27, 2018

The Coronial inquest into the deaths of four guests at a Gold Coast theme park has been played a video of a Dreamworld ride trainer telling Queensland Police that a junior employee working on the Thunder River Rapids ride at the time of the fatalities understood how to shut down operations in the event of an emergency.

Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett, Roozi Araghi and Cindy Low were killed as a result of a malfunction on the ride in October 2016.

The Coroner's Court heard that Dreamworld ride trainer Amy Crisp had trained junior ride operator Courtney Williams for 90 minutes on the ride on the day of the tragedy.

Crisp’s evidence contradicts Williams comments to the inquiry last week when she stated that she did not know what the ride’s emergency stop button did and and that Williams had been told "don't worry about it, you don't need to use it."

Williams said she understood it was the senior ride operator's role to shut down the ride in the event of an emergency.

The Court had previously heard the stop button halted the conveyor within two seconds, while a slow stop button on the main control panel took about eight seconds.

On Tuesday afternoon, the inquest was shown a video recorded at the site with Crisp and Queensland Police investigators five days after the fatal collision.

Giving evidence to the inquest yesterday, Crisp said she held off showing Williams how to shut down the ride until the end of the training session.

Crisp adviaed "I pointed it out to her … when we got to the control panel I described it to her in more detail because that's where we were doing the emergency stuff.

"She didn't need to know it yet and I knew she was a bit overwhelmed."

Crisp said when they returned to the main control panel she pointed out the stop button again and told Williams “if you hit that, it will stop your conveyor and a pump, and she understood that."

In the video Crisp advised “she said, 'yeah, yeah I get it'."

As reported by the ABC, Crisp said she told Williams to always face the conveyor at the unload area to monitor raft movements but added that she did not explain in depth about the dangers of water levels dropping on the ride.

Crisp told Police she thought the training at Dreamworld was adequate, and the shutdown procedures "should have worked" on the Thunder River Rapids ride the day four people were killed.

The Inquest heard Crisp was given a verbal warning by Dreamworld eight months prior to the fatalities after she failed to sign the post-shutdown check for the Rapids ride, which was a direct breach of operator procedure.

Crisp told the Court she had "forgot" to sign the document and "it was the first time it had happened … in five years of operating rides".

Under cross-examination from barrister Matthew Hickey, for Low's family, Crisp was asked what she thought could have been done to prevent the tragedy.

She replied "I think more engineering systems could have been put in place to shut down the ride quicker or recognise the fault.”

Crisp also agreed she had to "invent" some of her own training techniques to explain the main control panel of the Thunder River Rapids ride because the operations procedure could be "confusing" to some trainees.

Hickey’s questions also saw Crisp reveal that said she now performed audits on other ride operators.

She advised "I am one of the training and compliance officers and I go and do some of the audits."

Earlier on Tuesday, the inquest heard that on the day of the accident the partner of one of the four people killed questioned staff about why the ride was not stopped after the two rafts collided.

The Court heard that at the time of the incident, Goodchild's partner David Turner asked staff “why didn't you stop the ride?"

Ride Supervisor Sarah Cotter testified that when the emergency calls came through the radio, she assumed the conveyor had been running through the whole incident.

Cotter advised “my opinion is that the conveyor was never stopped.

"I don't know if it was ever stopped or just jam stopped."

Last week, Dreamworld Senior Ride Operator Peter Nemeth, who was running the Thunder River Rapids ride at the time of the fatalities, told the inquest he hit the conveyor stop button two or three times from the main control panel before the two rafts collided.

Cotter also told the inquest she thought it was "ridiculous" that the ride had broken down twice before the four people were killed, and was told by engineering staff that it would be shut down for the day if it happened a third time.

Barrister Matthew Hickey for Cindy Low's family asked why she did not call an engineering supervisor herself if she was concerned about the frequent breakdowns.

Cotter stated "I trusted that they knew what they were doing and it was safe.

"They know more about how the rides work than I do … if they say it's ready and it's safe then I am going to believe them."

Cotter trained junior staff at Dreamworld and said she never informed her colleagues about past incidents on the ride because she was never told about them.

As reported by the ABC, she told the Court she had worked on other rides in the theme park that broke down more than three times in one day and were not shut down.

Mechanical fitter Michael Stead said he performed "comprehensive" daily, monthly and annual checks on the Thunder River Rapids ride.

The Court was shown his statement to Police following the fatal collision, in which he said the "safety culture at Dreamworld is very sound".

His statement advised “along with the regular checks, we do the annual shutdown, which is very comprehensive and much of the expendable equipment (nuts, bolts etc) is replaced at that time."

Stead also advised with many long-term employees in his department nobody ever reported any safety concerns to him about the ride and if they had, he would have reported it to supervisors.

Under cross-examination from barrister Matthew Hickey, for Low's family, Crisp said she now performed audits on other ride operators.

Barrister Steven Whybrow, for Goodchild and Dorsett's family, told the Court it would have cost "less than $10 a day" for Dreamworld to have rostered two senior operators to manage the Thunder River Rapids ride every day, instead of a senior and junior.

The inquest has previously heard it was one of the most complex rides to operate within the theme park and one that operators were trained last in.

Images: The conveyor belt on Dreamworld's Thunder River Rapids ride prior to the October 2016 fatalities (top) and the Gold Coast theme park from the air (below). 

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We hope that you value the news that we publish so while you're here can we ask for your support?

The news we publish at www.ausleisure.com.au is independent, credible (we hope) and free for you to access, with no pay walls and no annoying pop-up ads.

However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine - if you don't already do so.

Published bi-monthly since 1997, the printed Australasian Leisure Management differs from this website in that it publishes longer, in-depth and analytical features covering aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues management.

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