Menu
News

Dreamworld ride almost claimed life years ago

There was a warning sign three days before the Dreamworld tragedy.
There was a warning sign three days before the Dreamworld tragedy.

TWO years after four people were killed on Dreamworld's Thunder River Rapids ride, the theme park is still trying to recover from the horror incident.

But as the inquest heard today, the Gold Coast theme park narrowly avoided a similar tragedy more than a decade ago when another raft knocked a woman into the water.

On the afternoon of October 7, 2004, a group of five people were disembarking a raft at the unload area with four of them leaving the ride safely.

But as the fifth person reached out to grab the Dreamworld worker's hand, a second raft came into the off-load area and knocked the raft the woman was standing on.

She lost balance and fell from the raft, hitting her head on the side of the ride before falling into the water.

The woman became fully submerged, disappearing under the raft she had been trying to step off.

A relative of hers jumped into the water to try and find the submerged woman and the Dreamworld worker also jumped in to stop her from being swept underneath the stationary rafts queuing in the unloading dock.

She was brought to the surface by the two men and "although shaken, appeared to be otherwise uninjured".

The ride was also undamaged.

Earlier at the inquest, Dreamworld's maintenance supervisor Mark Watkins has been quizzed about a malfunction on the Thunder River Rapids, three days before one of the ride's rafts flipped and killed four people.

On October 22, 2016, Mr Watkins was called to the Thunder River Rapids ride to reports the south pump had failed and wasn't pumping enough water into the ride.

The same failure happened three days later, causing the raft carrying Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett, Roozi Araghi and Cindy Low to flip, killing them.

In his statement after the tragedy, Mr Watkins told police he had been called to the ageing water ride on October 22 because the "pump had tripped".

The inquest heard Dreamworld had a policy tailored to the Thunder River Rapids ride where, if a Code 6 was called, all senior mechanical staff and park technicians were required to attend.

A Code 6 was typically used to describe a breakdown or ride malfunction.

Mr Watkins was the supervisor on that day and told the inquest that policy was in place because it was a water ride.

"We retrieved the guests, brought all the rafts home and we do a restart on the pump. If it starts up the first time without any issues we then wait until the water comes to the right level," Mr Watkins said.

The technicians then did some testing on the ride, and sent a number of empty rafts around before reopening the ride.

"The pump had restarted the first time, we'd done numerous tests and sent numerous (empty) rafts around, to my knowledge there was no reason why we couldn't reopen the ride."

After running the tests, Mr Watkins contacted Scott Ritchie, the theme park's engineering supervisor.

Mr Ritchie told him he had already hired an external contractor to fix the pump and had arranged for him to come the next week.

"So everyone was aware of the fault," Mr Watkins said in his statement.

Other documentation at the inquest revealed the south pump, the one that failed on October 25, consistently ran more than 20C hotter than the north pump.

On June 18, 2016, in an email to Wayne Cox, the theme park's engineering supervisor, Mr Watkins said he'd been monitoring the southern pump.

"See temperature log on my desk for the last three months southern pump range from 52 - 60 degrees, northern pump ranging from 41 to 62."

The southern pump was restarted a number of times over the three days leading up to the Dreamworld tragedy.

The inquest also included emails between the them park and Bearing Services Company (BSC).

On June 23, 2016, Mr Watkins emailed the external bearing company about the south pump.

"Will monitor the temps today if they don't improve I will give you a call," Mr Watkins wrote.

The conversation about the pumps was seen by Chris Deaves, Dreamworld's engineering general manager.

On June 20, 2016, Mr Deaves replied to the theme park's two supervisors.

"Let's see if we can work out why the significant difference. Could probably call in baring engineer through BSC, they enjoy these challenges," Mr Deaves responded.

Topics:  dreamworld editors picks near death ride