Dreamworld’s parent company Ardent Leisure has been charged over the 2016 theme park tragedy that killed four people when the Thunder River Rapids ride malfunctioned at the Gold Coast park.
In a statement to the Australian stock exchange, Ardent Leisure said three charges had been filed against the company in the Brisbane Magistrates Court under the Work Health and Safety Act.
The charges relate to an alleged failure to comply with a health and safety duty that exposes an individual to a risk of death or serious injury.
The maximum penalty for each breach is $1.5 million, or $4.5 million in total.
A coronial inquest into the four deaths made findings of a series of failures at the park, including safety and maintenance systems that the coroner described as “rudimentary at best” and “frighteningly unsophisticated”.
The four victims died when their raft on the Thunder River Rapids Ride collided with an empty raft and flipped on October 25, 2016.
Kate Goodchild, her brother Luke Dorsett and his partner Roozbeh ‘Roozi’ Araghi were killed alongside 42-year-old Cindy Low.
A boy and girl, aged 10 and 12, were on the same raft but managed to escape.
‘Systemic failure by Dreamworld’
The inquest heard a water pump feeding the ride had broken down, causing water levels to suddenly drop.
Delivering his findings in February, coroner James McDougall said there had been a “systemic failure by Dreamworld in relation to all aspects of safety” and that he was referring parent company Ardent Leisure to the Office of Industrial Relations for a possible breach of workplace laws.
At the time, Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said an experienced independent prosecutor would examine the coroner’s findings and material to determine what – if any – breaches had occurred.
According to Work Health and Safety, it is alleged Ardent Leisure had failed to ensure “so far as reasonably practicable” the provision and maintenance of safe plant and structures, and safe systems of work.
It has been further alleged the company failed to ensure the “provision of information, training, instruction or supervision that was necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety arising from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business”.
The independent Work Health and Safety prosecutor, Aaron Guilfoyle, said he does not intend to lay any further charges.
‘Deepest sympathies’ to families, friends
Ardent said it would update the market when the matter had been finally determined.
“First and foremost, we again express our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of Roozbeh Araghi, Luke Dorsett, Kate Goodchild and Cindy Low for their loss and ongoing suffering and say sorry to all of the people impacted by this tragedy,” the statement said.
“There has been considerable change at Dreamworld over the last few years as was acknowledged by the coroner in his report.
“Dreamworld has taken substantive and proactive steps to improve safety across the entire park and continues to enhance existing systems and practices, as well as adopt new ones, as we develop and implement our safety case 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.”
Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said she welcomed the charges laid by the Work Health and Safety prosecutor.
“[I’m] very supportive of his swift action in relation to this,” Ms Grace said.
“It was a recommendation from the Coroner to the Independent Health and Safety prosecutor and those charges have now been laid in the courts.
“They are the maximum charges that are in the Act, and the prosecutor is independent and we respect his decision, and we await the outcomes from the courts.”
The charges against Ardent Leisure will be mentioned in the Southport Magistrates Court on July 29.