UPDATED: 12:00 pm, 29 July: Dreamworld’s parent company Ardent Leisure has pleaded guilty to three charges filed by the Queensland Work Health and Safety Prosecutor over the faulty Thunder River Rapids Ride that killed three Canberrans and one woman from Sydney in 2016.
Each charge for failing to comply with health and safety duties carries a maximum fine of $1.5 million.
The accident killed Canberrans Kate Goodchild, 32, her brother Luke Dorsett, 35, his partner Roozi Araghi, 38, and Sydney woman Cindy Low, 42, when their raft collided with an empty raft on the Thunder River Rapids Ride after a pump failed.
Kate’s 12-year-old daughter and Cindy’s 10-year-old son survived the accident.
Kate’s husband David watched the incident unfold with their eight-month-old baby nearby.
Queensland coroner James McDougall recommended that charges be laid in a report released back in February, which stated that there was a “systematic failure by Dreamworld in relation to all aspects of safety”.
The 300-page report found that there were significant risks with the Thunder River Rapids Ride, including the fact that there was no emergency stop button for the conveyor on the main control panel.
The ride’s safety certificate – issued by external engineer Thomas Polly just weeks before the incident – fell below industry standards, while the ride’s operator received just 90-minutes of training the morning before her shift, the coroner said.
After an incident with the ride in 2004, a report recommended that there should be engineering controls to stop rafts hitting each other. This recommendation was not implemented by Dreamworld.
“There is no evidence that Dreamworld ever conducted a proper risk assessment of the ride in its 30 years of commission,” Mr McDougall said.
In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) on 21 July advising them of the charges, Ardent Leisure said that there had been considerable changes implemented at Dreamworld over the past few years and that “substantive and proactive steps to improve safety across the entire park” have been undertaken.
“The new leadership team is committed to continuing to improve and enhance safety systems and practices with the aim of becoming a global industry leader in theme park safety and operations,” the statement said.
“We again express our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of Roozbeh Araghi, Luke Dorsett, Kate Goodchild and Cindy Low for their loss and ongoing suffering and say sorry to all of the people impacted by this tragedy.”
In the wake of the tragedy, Kim Dorsett, the mother of Kate and Luke, has spoken about how much her son and his partner of nine years, Roozi, loved each other. She also described her daughter as the “best mummy to her two girls”.
“We exist in a world full of grief and shattered family and friends. Three mothers who have lost their children living with broken hearts and souls, and let us not forget those four beautiful children who will now grow up without a mum and that is what this is really about,” Ms Dorsett said.
Shayne Goodchild, the father of Luke and Kate, said the deaths had left a “gaping hole in their hearts”.
“Kate was the lifeblood of the family unit. She had a wonderful sense of humour that was enjoyed by the whole family,” he said in a statement.
“If someone needed help Luke and Roozi provided it. To say we miss them every day does not begin to encompass our grief and loss.”