Dreamworld owner fined $3.6m over ride disaster
ARDENT leisure attempts to provide a safe ride were "grossly below standard" a magistrate has found during sentencing for the Thunder River Rapids Ride tragedy.
"Its efforts were grossly below the standard that were expected of it," Magistrate Pamela Dowse said during her sentencing remarks on Monday.
Ardent Leisure pleaded guilty in the Southport Magistrates Court to three counts of failing to comply with health and safety duty.
Ardent Leisure was fined $3.6 million. The maximum penalty was $4.5 million.
Four people - Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett, Roozbeh Araghi and Cindy Low - lost their lives when a pump stopped working on the Thunder River Rapids Ride for the third time on October 25, 2016 just after 2pm. The water levels dropped and a raft became stuck on a conveyor belt.
That raft was hit by another carrying Mr Dorsett, his sister Ms Goodchild, her daughter Ebony, 12, Mr Araghi, Ms Low and her son, Kieran, 10. The raft flipped and the four adults were killed.
The two children remained strapped in the raft until onlookers were able to free them.
The inquest began in June 2018 with six weeks of hearings held over that year.
In February this year coroner James McDougall handed down his decision recommending the Office of Industrial Relations consider charges.
During sentencing on Monday it was found that some safety measures, including adequately labelling the emergency stop button, would have been of minimal cost.
"It was a company that had resources available to it to put in place those (safety) measures," Magistrate Dowse said.
Ardent Leisure are expected to pay within one month.
Convictions were recorded.
Earlier, the court heard a hysterical Ebony Turner repeatedly told her grandmother Kim Dorsett "I couldn't find mummy" in the hours after she was on the ride when the four people died.
Ebony, who was 12 at the time, was with her mother Kim Goodchild, uncle Luke Dorsett and his partner Roozbeh Araghi when rafts on the ride collided and killed them.
Also killed was Cindy Low. Ebony and Ms Low's son Keiran Low, who was also on the ride, escaped uninjured.
Ebony, now 16, attended the Ardent Leisure sentencing hearing with her grandmother Ms Dorsett.
Ms Dorsett gave a moving victim impact statement to the court, speaking about how two police officers broke news of the tragedy to her.
She was taken to a police station to be with Ebony and her other granddaughter Evie, who was an infant at the time.
Ms Dorsett said Ebony was hysterical and repeatedly told her: "I couldn't find mummy".
"These words have been a constant nightmare," Ms Dorsett said.
She outlined how she suffered ongoing mental health issues as she struggled with grief over the loss of her two children and her son's partner, Mr Araghi.
Ms Dorsett spoke about how she had panic attacks and avoids large crowds and unfamiliar circumstances.
"I live life as if I'm on a spin cycle in a washing machine and when I stop to take a breath I have to face the fact this has happened," she said.
Ms Dorsett said her grief had brought on loneliness.
"A broken heart has no words," she said.
Cindy Low's mother Helen Cook provided a statement which was read by prosecutor Aaron Guilfoyle.
"It's the memories that we won't have which hurt ... no more love and laughter, no more arguments, no more achievements, no more failures," she wrote.
"We lost the most precious thing in the world, we can't replace that.
"There is no hope for a different outcome."
Mr Guilfoyle had earlier taken the court through how the Thunder River Rapids Ride worked and what happened in the lead up to the accident.
He told the court raft five, which was carrying the group, struck another raft and became vertical.
He said it shook violently, sending Ms Goodchild and Mr Dorsett into the conveyor belt.
Ebony was held in her seat by a velcro seatbelt.
Mr Goodchild also told the court there was confusion over procedures, confusion over what the emergency stop button did, no button which stopped both the pumps and the conveyor belt and that training did not include conducting emergency drills.
Mr Guilfoyle said every person who set foot in the park put "complete blind trust" into Ardent Leisure.
But he said the safety failures were ongoing.
"The failures of the defendant were not momentary," he said.
"They were not solely on the day ... failures were well before then."
He asked for a fine of between $3 million and $4 million.
Defence barrister Bruce Hodgkinson opened his submission with an apology from Ardent Leisure to the families of the four who died.
"Ardent expresses its deepest sympathies to the immediate families and also apologises to those who have been impacted by the tragedy," he said.
An apology was also offered to first responders, those working there and anyone who suffered after the tragedy.
Mr Hodgkinson said the park had undergone a number of "learnings" since the tragedy.
He said a number of changes had happened including a complete park audit, decommissioning the ride and emergency procedures.
"Ardent accepts the responsibility for this tragedy," he said.
He said the company had a commitment to learn from the tragedy.