GOLD COAST: Australian theme park Dreamworld defended its safety standards Thursday in the face of intense scrutiny following the deaths of four people on a malfunctioning ride.
Two women and two men were killed when rafts on the Thunder River Rapids ride at the hugely popular Gold Coast tourist attraction collided Tuesday, tipping one backwards and crushing or drowning those on board.
A boy and a girl, aged 10 and 12, on the six-person raft miraculously survived the tragedy.
The Australian Workers Union said it had voiced concerns about the operation and maintenance of some equipment at Dreamworld last year, while media reports claimed to have uncovered safety mishaps.
The Sydney Morning Herald alleged the rapids ride had malfunctioned twice in three days recently, while The Australian reported mechanical problems just hours before the accident.
Dreamworld said in a statement that safety was its priority, with the Thunder River Rapids ride passing an annual mechanical and structural test on September 29.
“Dreamworld would like to assure the public and park guests that at the time of the incident the park was fully compliant with all required safety certifications,” it said.
“All our procedures and systems are constantly benchmarked against international best practice and ride manufacturer specifications.
“Our rides and slides are checked and tested by our experienced team before the park opens every day. If it’s not tested, it doesn’t open.”
It added that the park, Australia’s biggest, had hosted 30 million people since opening in 1981 and had never seen a death until this week.
The man responsible for the last six years of safety audits at Dreamworld, engineer David Randall, also released a statement.
“Dreamworld… has demonstrated a commitment to developing and maintaining a strong safety culture across all departments,” it read.
“Annual audits have resulted in continuous improvement in the management of safety.”
Police are conducting an investigation and have said if there was any criminal negligence, charges would be brought.
The park, which has been closed since the incident, will reopen for a memorial day on Friday with only smaller rider rides and animal attractions available. All entry proceeds will go to charity.