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Australian theme Parks

Park / February 28, 2024

Warren Murray

'It is one of the most tame rides here'

Warren Murray

At Dreamworld about 4.30pm the parks main rides including the Tower of Terror, waterslides and flagship SideWinder visible from the M1 motorway stood silent. The giant saw blade promoting the Buzz Saw ride still idling in circles was the only sign of activity on the rides themselves.

A contingent of fire and rescue trucks, police and ambulance vehicles occupied parking bays north of the ticketing booths while news helicopters hovered.

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 press conference.

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.”

Walker said her police background left her thinking that “I thought I could have helped” had she still been there when it happened.

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”.

Let’s look a little closer at the ride itself, which was described by one reporter as “really quite a timid ride.”

The circular rafts, which look like six chairs mounted on a giant inner tube, are sent around a 410m course. At the end of the ride the rafts are lifted out of the water on an incline by a conveyer belt

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has made a brief statement about the accident:

This is a very very sad and tragic event. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives.

We trust there will be a very thorough investigation into the causes of this incident in the days that follow.

What we know so far

Just recapping some of the details from that very brief press conference:

  • The theme park is closed until further notice
  • The Thunder River Rapids ride suffered some form of “malfunction” which caused two people to be thrown from the six-person vessel and two people to be trapped.
  • All four had “injuries incompatible with life.”
  • Two men and two women, aged between 32 and their early 40s, died.
  • No one else was injured.
  • Staff at Dreamworld were attempting to administer first aid when paramedics arrived.
  • Queensland Ambulance staff were “deeply affected” by the accident and have been offered counselling.
  • Police are yet to formally confirm the identity of all four people will not confirm any further details about the deceased, including whether they were part of a larger group of friends and family, until next of kin have been notified.
  • Detectives, the forensic crash unit, workplace health and safety and the coroner are on site.
  • Their deaths will now be subject to a coronial investigation.

The 34-year-old ride is a staple for most families visiting the theme park, and Dreamworld is one of the most popular family holiday destinations on the east coast of Australia.

A number of people took to social media to register their shock at the incident.

Peter Helliar (@pjhelliar)

Horrifying accident at Dreamworld. 4 people killed on ride. Thoughts with the families dealing with this tragedy.

Coldpolarbear (@coldpolarbear) Rochelle ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (@spiderxmilk)

Is there an Australian on the east coast who doesn't have cherished memories of Dreamworld? :( This is so sad

Hel Thomson (@Helalost)

That Dreamworld ride is literally the only one my parents ever allowed me to go on.

Declan Hooke (@DeclanOfHooke)

Dreamworld CEO: "deeply shocked and saddened"

A Queensland Ambulance spokesman Gavin Fuller said an accident occured on the ride that caused “two people to be ejected from the ride, another two people were caught inside the ride.”

They were assessed by Queensland ambulance personnel and had all sustained injuries that were incompatible with life.

Fuller confirmed that two women and two men passed away. They are aged between 32 and their early 40s. They have not all been formally identified.

He would not comment in any detail on how or where they were trapped or the nature of their injuries.

Police inspector Todd Reid would not comment on whether the people were known to each other or whether they were with anyone else on the ride (the carriages carry six).

The incident will be subject to a coronial investigation.

Associated Press is reporting that two men and two women were killed. It’s understood they were all in their late 20s or older.

Police confirm four people have died

QPS Media Unit (@QPSmedia)

Police are currently investigating an incident that occurred this afternoon at a theme park on the Gold Coast.

The statement reads:

Police were called to the site at Coomera around 2.20pm following reports that a number of people had been injured by a conveyor belt.

Four adults have been confirmed as being deceased.

Police and other emergency services remain on the scene and no further information can be released at this stage.