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Guilty plea over Dreamworld deaths

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Dreamworld’s parent company faces up to $4.5 million in fines after pleading guilty to safety charges over the Thunder River Rapids ride tragedy that killed four people.

 

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Ardent Leisure admits breaching the Work Health and Safety Act for failing to comply with its health and safety duty and exposing individuals to a risk of serious injury or death.

However, Dreamworld executives responsible for the park’s safety escaped individual prosecution after four tourists died on October 25, 2016, when they were thrown into the ride’s mechanism.

The charges were brought before Southport Magistrates Court on Wednesday by Queensland’s Workplace Health and Safety prosecutor Aaron Guilfoyle.

Mr Guilfoyle alleged Ardent Leisure failed to provide and maintain safe plant and structures and systems of work at the iconic Gold Coast theme park.

The company also allegedly failed to provide information, training, instruction or supervision necessary to protect people from risk.

Each charge carries a maximum penalty of $1.5 million.

Barrister Bruce Hodgkinson, who appeared for Ardent Leisure, said the company would plead guilty to all three charges.

The matter has been set down for a lengthy hearing on September 28.

Outside court, Mr Hodgkinson said the company would comply with the court’s orders.

Mr Guilfoyle declined to comment until after the sentence is handed down.

In February, Coroner James McDougall referred Ardent Leisure to the Office of Industrial Relations, saying there was a “systemic failure” at Dreamworld in all aspects of safety.

The inquest also found there had been no thorough engineering risk assessment of the Thunder River Rapids in the 30 years it was open to the public.

Dreamworld presented itself as a modern, world-class theme park, but its “frighteningly unsophisticated” safety procedures were “rudimentary at best”, he said while delivering the inquest findings.

Cindy Low, Kate Goodchild, her brother Luke Dorsett and his partner Roozi Araghi were killed when a water pump on the famous ride malfunctioned, causing water levels to fall dangerously low.

Their raft collided with another after becoming stuck in the low water.

It partially flipped, flinging the group into the mechanised conveyor that moved the rafts.

The malfunction was the third that day and the fifth in a week, and no automated shutdown function was installed despite recommendations.

Ms Goodchild’s 12-year-old daughter and Ms Low’s 10-year-old son survived the incident.

-AAP

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