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Reopened Dreamworld inquest hears ‘everybody’ failed to ensure ride’s safety prior to fatalities
A Dreamworld maintenance manager has conceded there was a "total failure by everybody" at the theme park to identify safety issues on the Thunder River Rapids ride prior to the October 2016 incident that killed four people.
An inquiry into the deaths of Cindy Low, Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett and Roozi Araghi on the popular ride has resumed at the Southport Coroner's Court today.
The inquest has been told some ride repairs were delayed for budgetary reasons and Dreamworld's safety guidelines had warned of the potential for rafts to tip.
During questioning by counsel assisting the Coroner, Ken Fleming QC, Dreamworld Maintenance Manager Grant Naumann agreed the Thunder River Rapids ride was "completely unsafe".
Fleming QC, if there had been a “total failure by everybody” to identify safety risks with the 30-year-old ride.
Naumann replied “in hindsight, yes.”
Among the issues Fleming suggested could have been identified on the ride were pinch points on the conveyor belt and potential problems that would be created by a water pump failure.
Earlier, Naumann told the inquiry that 'a number' of modifications were made to the 30-year-old ride, including on a section leading to the conveyer belt.
He advised “we installed some framework at the base of the conveyor, so leading up to the conveyor.”
"That framework was put in there in the event that a water level dropped the raft couldn't tip over, that sort of thing."
The fatal accident occurred when water levels dropped after a pump failed, leaving a raft stranded on the conveyor belt. The raft carrying the four victims collided with the stationary raft, forcing both to flip and causing the visitors to be fatally injured by the ride’s machinery.
Naumann said in his time at Dreamworld he was unaware of the ride being inspected by an engineer for safety issues.
He also agreed that some maintenance operations may have been deferred for financial reasons but he said he had never been told he could not attend to matters of safety on cost grounds.
The inquest also heard the emergency stop button on the control panel of the ride was not subject to regular maintenance checks.
Dreamworld’s Maintenance Supervisor, Stephen Murphy, told the inquest he had never used the emergency stop button on the main control panel of the ride.
Murphy said he had no idea what the button exactly did and despite using other emergency stop buttons during his daily checks, he had never pressed the control panel button.
He advised “that button was not a part of our pre-operational checks,” Murphy said.
The inquest also heard Murphy had no knowledge of incidents on the ride in 2001 and 2014 when rafts had collided in similar circumstances to the fatal incident in 2016. He said he did not believe at the time of the incident that the rafts colliding was an obvious risk on the ride.
Barrister Matthew Hickey, representing Low’s family, asked what would happen if rafts did collide on the ride.
Murphy responded “we all know the consequences once that did happen.
“Did you know it had happened before?” Hickey asked. Murphy replied: “No.”
Former Dreamworld employee Stephen Buss, who was fired after the 2014 incident, incident, where a raft on the Thunder River Rapids ride flipped, but no one was injured, is expected to give evidence on Tuesday.
The victims' lawyers are expected to use Buss' account of the 2014 incident when they probe Dreamworld senior management later in the inquest.
There will also be scrutiny over how the theme park's management responded to the earlier incident and attempts to establish what, if anything, was learnt from it.
Dreamworld General Manager, Troy Margetts, is also expected to be called to give evidence during the two-week window.
In June, barrister Steven Whybrow, who is representing the families of siblings Kate Goodchild and Luke Dorsett, told the court the 2014 event was "an almost identical incident of rafts coming into contact" after a pump had gone off.
Dreamworld's owners say a recent audit of the theme park's rides and slides found they were safety compliant.
Parent company Ardent Leisure says Workplace Health and Safety Queensland did not issue any improvement notices during last month's audit or the previous inspections in 2017.
Ardent Leisure Chair Gary Weiss said in a statement that the inquest “will be a difficult time for many and our hearts and thoughts firmly remain with the families and all those affected by this tragedy.”
Image: Dreamworld’s Thunder River Rapids ride in operation prior to the October 2016 fatalities.
26th September 2018 - Ardent Leisure facing naming challenges with new Dreamworld simulator ride
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
30th June 2018 - Ardent Leisure issues statement of apology over Dreamworld deaths
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