Australia

Dreamworld deaths: Theme park owner pleads guilty to safety breaches

Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett, Roozbeh Araghi and Cindy Low Image copyright Alamy
Image caption (L-R) Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett, Roozbeh Araghi and Cindy Low were killed in the Dreamworld accident in October 2016

The owner of Australia's Dreamworld theme park has pleaded guilty to safety violations on a ride that malfunctioned and killed four people in 2016.

Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett, Roozbeh Araghi and Cindy Low died almost instantly when their water raft hit another and overturned, crushing them.

Prosecutors laid three charges against Ardent Leisure, saying it failed in its duty of care. It did not contest them.

Each violation carries a maximum A$1.5m (£0.8m; $1m) penalty.

The 2016 accident at Australia's biggest theme park, on Queensland's Gold Coast, sparked reforms to state criminal liability laws for companies.

A coroner's inquiry, which delivered its findings in February, had recommended prosecutors charge the company.

What happened in the accident?

On 25 October 2016, four adults and two children were on board the raft on the Thunder River Rapids ride, which simulated the experience of white-water rafting.

Towards the end of the ride, a pump malfunctioned and caused water levels to drop. This led to the occupied raft colliding with an empty one that had drifted loose of its moorings.

The raft with the passengers flipped, fatally injuring the adults. The children survived.

Image copyright CORONERS COURT OF QUEENSLAND
Image caption The raft carrying passengers flipped in the collision

Following a years-long inquiry, Coroner James McDougall condemned the park for its "systemic failure... in relation to all aspects of safety".

He found Dreamworld had not properly assessed the ride's safety risk in 30 years, and it was "only a matter of time" before an accident occurred.

The coroner recommended the Queensland government pursue charges against Ardent Leisure.

Queensland introduced industrial manslaughter laws following the accident and other unrelated workplace deaths. They will not be applied retroactively.

Last year, police recommended that no criminal charges should be brought against the operator or any of its employees.

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Media captionRelative of Dreamworld victim: "I'd prefer to talk about a celebration of my brother"

In an update to shareholders last week, Ardent Leisure said it had enacted "considerable change" to improve safety in the years since the accident.

The park closed for six weeks after the accident and demolished the Thunder River Rapids ride. It has been shut since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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