Dreamworld accident: four dead at Gold Coast theme park

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Witnesses describe people running screaming from Thunder River Rapids ride after malfunction flips raft.

Four people have been killed at a Dreamworld theme park in Australia after a ride malfunctioned, throwing two of them from the raft they were riding in and trapping the other two.

Kate Goodchild, 32, her brother Luke Dorsett, and his partner, Roozi Araghi, were fatally injured along with a 42-year-old woman on the Thunder River Rapids ride.

Their raft malfunctioned at about two o’clock on Tuesday, with witnesses describing people running from the ride screaming.

Queensland ambulance service spokesman Gavin Fuller said whether those on the ride were trapped by machinery or drowned would be investigated.

“One of the rides sustained some sort of malfunction causing two people to be ejected from the ride. Another two were caught inside the ride,” he said.

The theme park said in a statement it would remain closed “until further notice”.

Gold Coast residents Lia Capes and Claire Wooley had been about to line up for the Thunder River Rapids when distressed people came rushing out, including a man whose leg was covered in dirt with his clothes scuffed, and a young girl, apparently his daughter, “screaming for her mum”.

“After work we decided to come here for a bit of fun and had only been here for an hour or so before it happened,” Capes said.

“We were walking towards the ride because we’d decided we wanted to go on it. As soon as we walked towards the line we saw people running out – the lady’s husband running with dirt all down his leg. His daughter was crying so we just tried to comfort her.

“Then the [Dreamworld staff] took her and her little infant sister away.”

Wooley estimated the girl was about six years old: “She told us that it was her family involved, she was screaming for her mum and he [the girl’s father] was just in panic, trying to ring everyone and running back and forth … I assume he was one of the people who had been on the ride. He had scuffs and was covered in dirt like he had fallen.

“She confirmed to us that she was on the ride but I don’t think she was in the raft that had tipped over.”

At the scene, Dreamworld staff administered first aid before paramedics arrived.

The ride is 28 years old and known as one of the more family friendly ones, allowing on children as young as two. The circular rafts, which look like six chairs mounted on a giant inner tube, are sent around a 410-metre course. At the end of the ride the rafts are lifted out of the water on an incline by a conveyer belt.

The Gold Coast Bulletin has reported (warning: graphic) that one of the rafts flipped on the conveyer belt, dragging two people underneath it.

Lisa Walker, a New Zealander visiting from New Guinea where she works as a police officer, was one of the patrons trickling out and said she had been on the Thunder River Rapids ride only 10 or 15 minutes before the accident. She went back to the area after hearing commotion and sirens.

“We were around the area afterwards and saw people coming out very distressed. We saw a lady and a man run back who must have had family in there.”

A distressed young girl was being comforted by police, Walker said.

Referring to the Thunder River Rapids ride, Walker said: “It is one of the most tame rides here and certainly one for the families.”

Lily Smitheman, on holiday from New Zealand, said they had been on their way out of the park when the accident happened and saw “a whole bunch of people coming out at the same time”.

“Everyone was getting a lot of phone calls – I got a call from Mum asking if I was OK”.

The entire theme park was shut down as news crews and police assembled on the forecourt immediately outside the ticketing booths and public entrance where Dreamworld management, police and ambulance officials gave a media conference.

Dreamworld chief executive Craig Davidson said: “We are deeply shocked and saddened by this and our hearts and our thoughts go to the families involved and their loved ones.”

Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, released a statement saying he was saddened to hear of the accident.

“Theme parks are a place for family fun and happiness, not tragedy. This is a very, very, sad, tragic event. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives,” he said in a statement.

“This is a very sad day, and we trust there will be a thorough investigation into the causes of this accident over the days to follow.”

A man almost drowned on a ride with a similar mechanism at Dreamworld in April when the conveyor belt slipped and trapped him while he was on the log ride.

The ride was reopened after it was cleared by Workplace Queensland and independent inspectors,

Detectives, the forensic crash unit, workplace health and safety officers and the coroner are investigating.

Original Post by: theguardian.com

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