Four people died in a nightmarish accident on the Thunder River Rapids ride at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast yesterday afternoon.
Thunder River Rapids ride is a family-oriented water-based raft ride using a conveyor belt. It’s one of the oldest and most popular rides on offer at the theme park.
“All aboard for white water rafting!,” the Dreamworld website says. “Travel down a foamy water track past the Gold Rush Country, speeding up to 45 km/h through the turbulent rapids.” Riders board six-person circular rafts.
Reports from the Gold Coast last night said police had confirmed that four people – two men aged 35 and 39, and two women aged 32 and 42 – had died in the accident.
Footage was posted to YouTube:
Two of the victims were believed to be brother and sister, the Gold Coast Bulletin reported. Reports said three victims were holidaymakers from Canberra and the fourth, a woman, was from New Zealand but had been living in Sydney for a decade.
Early reports said the ride seemed to have flipped, with two riders trapped by the underwater conveyor belt. Two young girls involved in the accident escaped without injury, an escape that has astonished investigators examining CCTV footage, and which a senior police officer said was “maybe through the providence of God”.
Emergency services, including police, firefighters and ambulance crews rushed to the scene, as authorities drained water from the ride in a desperate effort to save riders. Witnesses spoke of shock, horror and screaming.
The park was closed down immediately and will remain closed today, the Gold Coast Bulletin reported. The paper said the park broadcast announcements on loudspeakers, also audible to people outside the park, directing visitors to leave through the front gates as soon as possible.
“If you witnessed anything near the rapids ride this afternoon and wish to speak to police please make your way towards guest services,” the announcement said.
News bulletins carried full reports of the tragedy, as below:
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has released a statement.
“I’m very saddened to learn of the tragic accident at Dreamworld earlier today. Theme parks are a place for family fun and happiness, not tragedy. This is a very, very, sad, tragic event. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives. This is a very sad day, and we trust there will be a thorough investigation into the causes of this accident over the days to follow.”
Written by Peter Needham