Families of Australia theme park deceased plead for answers

2016-10-28 13:56
Deborah Thomas, CEO of the Ardent Leisure Group which operates the Australian theme park Dreamworld. (William West/AFP)

Deborah Thomas, CEO of the Ardent Leisure Group which operates the Australian theme park Dreamworld. (William West/AFP)

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Sydney – The families of some of the people killed at a theme park when their ride malfunctioned pleaded for answers into their loved ones' deaths on Friday, as the park's managers defended themselves from criticism over their handling of the tragedy.

Shayne Goodchild, father of two of the four adults killed at Dreamworld on Queensland state's Gold Coast, read an emotional statement on behalf of the families of the victims, who died when their raft overturned on the Thunder River Rapids ride on Tuesday.

"Like everyone else in Australia, we want to know what went wrong," Goodchild told reporters in the nation's capital, Canberra. "We want to know why our loved ones were taken from us in such horrific circumstances. No one wants those answers more than we do."

Goodchild, who lost his 32-year-old daughter, Kate, and 35-year-old son, Luke, was joined by Kate's longtime partner, Dave Turner, who wiped away tears as the statement was read. Dave and Kate's 12-year-old daughter, Ebony, was also on the Thunder River Rapids raft but was thrown clear of the ride's machinery when it flipped, sparing her life.

Crime scene

"Dave not only has to deal with his own grief, but be strong for their beautiful daughters," Goodchild said. "Our darling Evie is only 8 months old, and far too young to be without a mother. And he must be a rock for his oldest daughter, Ebony, who saw her mum's life taken."

Dreamworld has been closed as a crime scene since the accident as police try and determine what went wrong with the 30-year-old ride. The park will remain closed at least until the funerals for the victims have been held, and no rides will re-open until internal and external safety audits are completed, Dreamworld CEO Craig Davidson said.

Davidson has declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding the deadly malfunction, including reports the ride had broken down earlier in the day and that it was being run by an inexperienced staffer. On Friday, he said only that the person operating the ride when the accident occurred was an experienced, trained employee.

Sharp criticism

The park has faced sharp criticism of its handling of the tragedy. Family members complained the park's executives waited too long to contact them. A union has accused management of ignoring safety concerns raised by staff over the years.

And the CEO of the Ardent Leisure Group, which owns Dreamworld, faced scrutiny after she was granted a bonus package worth US$640 000 at the company's annual general meeting on Thursday.

CEO Deborah Thomas later issued a statement saying she would donate the cash portion of her bonus to charity. On Friday, she attended a private memorial by Dreamworld staff and promised afterward to take care of the victims' families.

"We've reached out to many of the people involved in the tragedy and spoken to them," Thomas told reporters. "I'd like to say that if I hadn't handled it as well as I could, we thought we were doing the right thing in terms of the way that we approached it... But if the families are watching, I have spoken to a number of them and we will look after them."

Read more on:    australia  |  accidents

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