Dreamworld tragedy: ‘A total failure by everybody’
A DREAMWORLD supervisor has conceded "a total failure by everybody" at the Gold Coast theme park to identify safety problems on the deadly Thunder River Rapids ride.
The bombshell admission came as the inquest into the 2016 disaster resumed yesterday after explosive evidence of safety, maintenance and training shortfalls at the start of the coronial hearing in June.
It was also revealed yesterday that repairs on Dreamworld rides were sometimes delayed for budget reasons, and that the park's own safety manual warned of the potential for rafts to flip on the Thunder River Rapids ride.
Coroner James McDougall is probing the horrific deaths of tourists Cindy Low, Kate Goodchild, her brother Luke Dorsett and his partner Roozi Araghi when their raft capsized on October 25, 2016.
Maintenance planner Grant Naumann was grilled yesterday about repairs on rides including Thunder River Rapids, which the inquest previously heard malfunctioned multiple times in the days and hours leading up to the tragedy.
Mr Naumann told the hearing that there was "never" any pressure on him to take shortcuts with safety when it came to maintenance.
Counsel assisting the Coroner, Ken Fleming QC, put it to Mr Naumann that the ride "proved to be completely unsafe" on the day of the tragedy. "Yes," Mr Naumann replied.
Mr Fleming then asked whose job it was to determine the safety of the ride.
"Everybody's," Mr Naumann responded.
Mr Fleming: "Are you then saying that there has been a total failure by everybody to identify the safety issues on this ride?"
Mr Naumann: "In hindsight, yes."
Referring to the spot on the ride where the two rafts collided, tipping the tourists on to the conveyor belt, Mr Fleming asked Mr Naumann: "There was a massive pinch point in respect of this conveyor, wasn't there … where four people died on that day?"
Mr Naumann: "Yeah … I don't know what to say."
Mr Fleming: "Nobody identified that was a pinch point?" Mr Naumann: "Not to my knowledge, no."
The inquest heard a Workplace Health and Safety investigator noted "significant corrosion" on the ride and asked Mr Naumann why it had not been picked up.
Mr Naumann told the investigator it was "probably duly noted and scheduled for corrective action when it could be done, or when it could be afforded to be done".
Mr Naumann told the inquest that was "a poor choice of words" and only "aesthetic" problems might be delayed for cost reasons.
Matthew Hickey, the barrister representing the family of Ms Low, asked Mr Naumann if there had been discussion about whether equipment repairs or replacement could deferred "until such time as it fit the budget better". "Yes that happened," Mr Naumann replied.
The inquest also heard that Dreamworld's own safety guidelines warned of the potential for rafts on the ride to flip and become a serious safety hazard.
Park maintenance supervisor Stephen Murphy, who was a team leader at the time of the October 2016 tragedy, told the inquest he did not know the rafts could flip if the water pump failed. He was then shown safety guidelines, which warned of "the potential for rafts to become a hazard".
"The rafts are very heavy and there is a lot of underwater obstacles that could cause the rafts to flip or entrap a guest," the manual stated.
Mr Murphy, a veteran workplace health and safety officer, told the inquest he would have alerted authorities to any risk on the ride if he knew there was one.
He said "in hindsight", the spacing between the timber slats on the ride posed a risk.
Engineer Gen Cruz, who was hired to conduct a maintenance audit on Dreamworld's "Big Nine" thrill rides, told the inquest he had not got around to reviewing Thunder River Rapids ride before the tragedy because it was considered a lower priority.