Dreamworld boss breaks silence with message to family
DEBORAH Thomas, the CEO of Dreamworld's parent company, has offered heartfelt sympathy to one of the families of those killed in Tuesday's ride disaster.
Ms Thomas, the CEO of Ardent Leisure, chairman of the board Neil Balnaves and CEO Dreamworld Craig Davidson all fronted the media after the company's AGM to discuss the tragic loss of four lives.
When asked why they had not personally spoken to the Dorsett family, Ms Thomas, the former editor-in-chief of Australian Women's Weekly said they did not have a direct contact for them but had been working through a police liaison officer.
Ms Thomas said Dreamworld would be offering the family of the victims all the financial support they needed in the short term.
"We've reached out to the families and we've finally made contact with the Dorsett family and we are talking with them today.
"We're doing this through the police liaison officer and we have offered and will give them every assistance that we can and what they require during this difficult time.
"I hope I get a chance to talk to them… I will give them my sympathies and condolences and the children.
"I am a mother, I have a family. I take my family to Dreamworld. This could have been my family and I completely am sympathetic to what they must be going through. And I hope that I will be able to help them.
A reporter then told Ms Thomas: "The Dorsett family are actually watching this press conference at the moment and are apparently furious at suggestions that support has been offered to them. They say that they've had no direct contact whatsoever, no-one's even reached out to them.
"They've even sent me her mobile phone number, saying, "Can someone please call her?" Is this true? Why hasn't anyone actually called the Dorsett family?
Ms Thomas replied: "We didn't call the Dorsett family directly because we didn't know how to contact them, so we have been to the police liaison officer.
"I will not call her now in front of the media, but I am very happy to call her very soon after this meeting.
"In fact, I would be very glad to call her very soon after this meeting. Yesterday was all about trying to get hold of the families so we could offer assistance, and we have it back from the police that they have made contact with them.
"And my understanding was that our people would be with them today. So, please, give me that number, thank you.
She later made a direct appeal to the family:
"I would like to say to Mrs Dorsett that my sincere sympathies for what you must be going through. And on behalf of the staff and management at Ardent and Dreamworld, that our hearts and our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this difficult time. And I will be calling you to see what assistance we can offer you. Thank you."
Dreamworld rejects AWU talk of safety breaches
Earlier, Dreamworld disputed allegations raised by the Australian Workers Unions (AWU) about safety breaches.
"We've released a statement this morning which addresses those points. And I will say that you used terminology like 'breaches','' Dreamworld's CEO Mr Davidson said.
"There have been no breaches. And I think there needs to be a thorough examination of what has been put forward by the AWU against what our response will be to those allegations.
"They clearly have a view and we have responded to that, and we will continue to respond to those through the process of the investigation and the coronial inquiry.
They maintained Dreamworld was a safe place, had a great record on safety, and that it was not too early to open on Friday partially and the fully on Saturday.
The fatal ride, however, would not be opened for months.
"We will also be conducting our own internal inquiry. But our track record at Dreamworld, as Neil has meptioned, has been consistently good…This is an isolated incident that has been a tragic - led to a tragic loss of lives,'' Mr Davidson said.
"And the team myself and the team at Dreamworld are as much interested in how an event like this could happen, as everybody else is in the room.
CEO dodges questions about performance bonus
Ms Thomas declined to answer questions whether she would still be paid bonuses in light of the tragedy.
"I cannot answer that with you today. In terms of my performance rights, that is a question for the board. It is a question for the shareholders. And it was voted today and it's not really the time to be discussing that right now, under the circumstances, either."
"Four people died very recently, and we are all shattered by this. This is not something that we deal with very easily. So, right now, I do not want to discuss transactions at this point."
"But you're getting paid a million dollars,'' one reporter suggested.
"I'm not getting paid a million dollars."
"But it's a bonus.
Mr Balnaves the chairman of the board stepped in, saying any bonus Ms Thomas has relates to the prior year.
"The prior year was a year where the company performed in very good terms. The tragedy is only 48 hours' old. It is just inappropriate to talk about commercial matters at this point in time. And I don't want to comment any further on it."
Why Dreamworld decided to reopen
Mr Balnaves said there had been a lot of deliberations over the past 24 hours about re-opening the theme park.
After discussions with counsellors and a lot to do with the issues of people grieving, the decision was taken to turn tomorrow into a fundraising event to support the Red Cross.
"It is better that people get back to work and basically get together with their comrades and talk and deal with this issue rather than they are concerned about their jobs, and they're sitting at home in isolation, and we're just adding to their issues,'' Mr Balnaves said.
"It is a very fine park. At some point the park will open. And it's driven by the utmost respect for the families and the deaths, and it will open again on Saturday to basically repair the damage with a lot of our people as well.
"We can't return the four lives."
They said the park would be safe for everyone.
"The safety team will be going through that park with a fine-toothed comb in the next 24 hours."
They said the ride in question had been subjected to an annual "tear-down and rebuild"- and annual check on all safety issues completed just over four weeks ago.
"That's what confounds the tragedy even more for us, because it is - it is - it is absolutely surprising that a ride could get through that process and everything up to date.
"I mean, the park does not take its safety as a casual issue. It works on a world's-best standards. It follows world-best practices, it uses international experts to set up the scheme.
"It is a very large component and it goes right through up to the board, through to the safety committee, because the board understands its responsibility in that area, and that's why it's a serious issue for all of us."
Deadly Dreamworld ride deemed 'not fit for service'
DREAMWORLD staff feared either one of their colleagues or a visitor would be seriously hurt at the Gold Coast theme park, which is now facing a "dossier" of concerns despite plans to reopen on Friday.
It may include a report that the Thunder River Rapids ride was deemed "not fit for service".
The Australian Workers' Union is today intending to complete a "substantial" file of timelines, incidents and safety complaints relating to Dreamworld since early 2015.
Some of the AWU's concerns focus on whether maintenance was done to proper the guidelines and whether the right engineers worked on the rides.
The Daily Telegraph reports workers had warned that they or tourists could be hurt because of the issues.
On Tuesday, Kate Goodchild, 32, her brother Luke Dorsett, 35, and his partner Roozbeh Araghi, 38, were killed after their raft flipped and they were pinned beneath, against conveyor belt machinery.
Cindy Low, 42, was also killed in the horror incident.
Ms Low and Ms Goodchild's each had a child watching on in the next raft, and who are traumatised after seeing their mothers die.
Ms Low's son is 10 years old, Ms Goodchild's daughter is 12.
"We did hold some very grave concerns about safety of equipment and the operation of equipment and as of about three weeks ago we were still raising issues with the company about safety,'' Mr Swan told the Daily Telegraph.
It comes amid allegations that Dreamworld parent company Ardent Leisure tried to stop 143 pages of critical information covering ride safety and inspections from being released.
After narrowing its demands, the union was given access to more than 12 complaints, injury reports and maintenance concerns from 2010 to 2016.
A note from 2012 found air compressor units, including ones used on the Thunder River Rapids ride, were considered "not fit for service."
Inspector Shaun Langdon told Dreamworld at the time it was taking a risk.
"If I was a paying customer, I wouldn't go on any rides, the condition they were in," News.com.au reports.
The revelations come after Dreamworld announced it would re-open on Friday as a "memorial day".
On Thursday morning, Dreamworld responded with a media statement defending the park's safety record and stringent testing of rides.
It also questioned claims by the AWU that its rides or safety routines were not up to scratch.
It stated the ride had passed its "annual mechanical and structural safety engineering inspection" in late September.
"Our deepest sympathies and heartfelt thoughts remain with the families and loved ones of the victims, the first responders on the scene, guests who were at the park and Dreamworld staff," the statement read.
"Park safety is our priority. Dreamworld would like to assure the public and park guests that at the time of the incident the park was fully compliant with all required safety certifications."
Dreamworld then emphasised that almost 2 million people visited in the park in the past financial year, and since 1981 has never recorded a fatality before this week.
"Our rides and slides are checked and tested by our experienced team before the park opens every day.
If it's not tested, it doesn't open.
It stated that Dreamworld has a "strong, open and transparent working relationship with the regulator".
Read the full statement below:
On Tuesday 25 October, a tragic incident occurred on the Dreamworld Thunder River Rapids ride that resulted in four fatalities.
Dreamworld has reached out to the families through Queensland Police to offer its unwavering support.
Our deepest sympathies and heartfelt thoughts remain with the families and loved ones of the victims, the first responders on the scene, guests who were at the park and Dreamworld staff.
Park safety is our priority. Dreamworld would like to assure the public and park guests that at the time of the incident the park was fully compliant with all required safety certifications.
We can assure you, the entire Dreamworld team is committed to working closely with the investigating authorities on all matters of safety, process and procedures relating to the incident.
We support the Mayor and the Premier's sentiment that we can leave no stone unturned.
Safety of our guests, staff and wildlife is a core value of our business.
We welcomed almost 1.8million people to Dreamworld last financial year and prior to Tuesday there has never been a death at the park due to a ride incident, despite Dreamworld hosting more than 30million visitors since it opened in 1981.
This is largely due to our robust policies and procedures and our 1000 plus employees who are totally committed to guest services and guest safety.
The importance of safety is inherent in all our operations and decisions at every level of the business.
All our procedures and systems are constantly benchmarked against international best practice and ride manufacturer specifications.
Our rides and slides are checked and tested by our experienced team before the park opens every day.
If it's not tested, it doesn't open.
We then overlay this with strict operating and testing procedures like rotating staff to prevent fatigue and our unique lock-out tag-out system which prevents a ride from being operated inadvertently.
We also regularly invite local and international independent external ride safety auditors and Queensland Workplace Health and Safety representatives to scrutinise our engineering and safety systems against Australian and international standards, going well beyond our legal requirements.
For example, the Thunder River Rapids ride had successfully completed its annual mechanical and structural safety engineering inspection on 29 September 2016, just four weeks ago.
As per regulations, this safety audit was conducted by a specialist external engineering firm. Details of this external audit will of course be provided to the Coroner and workplace safety investigators.
Furthermore, all ride operators are trained to specific competency standards: this is a park rule.
At all times throughout each year we diligently work with Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, our regulator.
We have a strong, open and transparent working relationship with the regulator.
For all these reasons, Dreamworld is concerned about the timing and nature of recent AWU media comments.
We trust the information contained within this letter illustrates a history of operating a safe theme park in a more factual light.
The entire Dreamworld team is devastated and shocked by what occurred on Tuesday.
The Dreamworld team is absolutely committed to fully supporting the authorities investigating the incident so we can all find out exactly what has occurred.
'Dreamworld may never open again'
The possibility of Gold Coast theme park Dreamworld never opening again is very real, says Australian broadcaster Steve Price.
Four people lost their lives on the Thunder River Rapids late yesterday afternoon, when a raft apparently capsized, throwing two people out and trapping another two.
The accident has been described by paramedics as so horrific they are now in need of counselling. The Queensland amusement park has since been closed.
Price told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking Breakfast the accident would likely cause doubts over the safety of other Queensland theme parks.
"Anyone travelling to the Gold Coast in the next little while including even up to Christmas holiday time will have to bear that in mind and maybe this park Dreamworld may never open again," he said.
"It had an accident two weeks ago on another of its rides involving a boat.
"The equipment is said by many witnesses to be ageing. There is obviously going to be a long, lengthy investigation into what went wrong."
Dreamworld was closed yesterday after four people died when their River Rapids ride went tragically wrong.
Dreamworld shares collapsed on the sharemarket yesterday, falling more than 8 per cent on news of the tragedy.
The Queensland amusement park is closed until further notice.
REACTION: "This tragedy won't stop us going back"
Last year a similar tragedy happened at British theme park Thorpe Park.
No one died, but 16 people were seriously injured when a roller coaster cart collided with another on a ride called The Smiler.
Two injured passengers each had to have a leg amputated.
The theme park was closed for nearly a week while the June 2 accident was investigated, but the Smilar didn't reopen until March this year.
Will you be going back to Dreamworld?
This poll ended on 26 November 2016.
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
WHAT YOU'RE SAYING ON FACEBOOK
Demi Clarke: You're more likely to die on the way to a theme park then to die on one of the rides. Don't get me wrong, it's horrific as to what happened but it doesn't need to shut down over an accident. Eliza Orenshaw: I certainly hope it doesn't shut permanently. I have full faith in the park operating like it always has- with safety at the forefront of their procedures.
It is so devastating this has happened, and my heart goes out to the family who lost so many people in one go from this horrific accident. Dreamworld will fix their ride, they will put new protocols in place to try to prevent anything like this ever happening again, and anyone that's ever been there and loved it (like I have my whole life) will be back, as well as tourists who want to experience the joy of this theme park.
It was a horrifying accident, and the family will be scarred for life, but that doesn't mean the whole place should shut down- look at how many jobs would be lost, how much revenue to QLD tourism would be lost.
Roads don't close that have had hundreds of deaths, planes don't stop after plane crashes, and skydiving still happens after horrifying accidents have occurred and parachutes haven't deployed.
Steve Price is probably my least favourite person in media, and again is making stupid claims looking for spotlight. Chelcie Tamaira Of course it won't close. They didn't close it after the other issues in the past. They might just need to tighten their safety and actually close a ride for maintenance when it was due as per the website! Greg Peake Shut up Price, no one cares what you think. There will be some investigation, necessary action will be taken, and after grieving this tragic loss we will eventually pick ourselves up. Hearts go out to all affected. I'm sure steps will be taken to minimize the chance of this ever happening again Chris Wilkinson I doubt it will close but the numbers will drop dramatically for the next year or so might stuggle... but at the end of the day it was a terrible accident and the up keep of the machines will be more crucial to prevent anything happening again. Julie Chandler I can't see it closing. But the whole place needs a full safety check. But I really think out of respect the rapids ride needs to be taken out of the park.