More than three-and-a-half years after four holidaymakers were killed on a Dreamworld ride, charges have been laid against the company behind the iconic Gold Coast theme park.
Ardent Leisure was charged with three counts of failing to comply with health and safety legislation and exposing individuals to a risk of serious injury or death.
But the Dreamworld executives responsible for the park’s safety escaped individual prosecution after the tourists died in October 2016, when they were thrown into the mechanism of the Thunder River Rapids ride.
Queensland’s work health and safety prosecutor on Tuesday filed three charges against Ardent Leisure under the Work Health and Safety Act.
Prosecutor Aaron Guilfoyle alleged Ardent Leisure failed to provide and maintain safe plant and structures and systems of work.
The company also allegedly failed to provide the information, training, instruction or supervision necessary to protect people from risk.
Coroner James McDougall in February referred Ardent Leisure to Queensland’s Office of Industrial Relations, stating there was a “systemic failure” at Dreamworld in all aspects of safety.
The inquest 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”, the coroner said when delivering his findings.
Cindy Low, Kate Goodchild, her brother, Luke Dorsett, and his partner, Roozi Araghi, were killed when a water pump on the ride malfunctioned, causing water levels to fall dangerously low.
Their raft collided with another after becoming stuck in the low water and partially flipping, 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.
Goodchild’s 12-year-old daughter and Low’s 10-year-old son survived the incident.
“We again express our deepest sympathies to the families and friends … for their loss and ongoing suffering and say sorry to all of the people impacted by this tragedy,” Ardent Leisure said in a statement on Tuesday.
The company said it had worked hard to improve the park’s safety since 2016 in accordance with the Queensland government’s new major amusement park safety regulations.
“The new leadership team is committed to continuing to improve and enhance safety systems and practices with the aim of becoming a global industry leader in theme park safety and operations.”
The state industrial relations minister, Grace Grace, said the charges were the maximum available to the work health and safety prosecutor under the legislation.
“I’m very supportive of his swift action in relation to this. It was a recommendation from the coroner to the independent health and safety prosecutor … we await the outcome for the courts,” she told reporters.
Each charge carries a maximum penalty of $1.5 million.
The matter is due to be mentioned in Southport magistrates court on July 29.