NOW

UPDATE: Dreamworld Now Won't Re-Open On Friday After Consulting With Police

The grandmother of a survivor has criticised the park's handling of the disaster.

27/10/2016 11:08 AM AEDT | Updated 27/10/2016 7:21 PM AEDT
NEW! HIGHLIGHT AND SHARE
Highlight text to share via Facebook and Twitter
AFP/Getty Images
Dreamworld CEO Craig Davidson lays flowers at a makeshift floral tribute at the theme park on the Gold Coast on October 26.

The mother-in-law of one of the victims of Tuesday's accident has criticised Dreamworld's handling of the tragedy, as the theme park confirmed it will not being reopening on Friday as it had planned.

Canberra-based woman Kate Goodchild was riding in the Thunder River Rapids Ride with her young daughter, brother Luke Dorsett, his partner and two strangers when disaster struck.

Goodchild's partner, David, and son had been riding in a different raft when they saw the raft flip over backwards.

David's mother Gillian Turner said that her son managed to reach his childhood sweetheart Kate, who died in his arms, "while his 12-year-old daughter looked on screaming in the background".

"I would like to believe that my 12-year-old granddaughter was saving so that she could tell her little sister what a wonderful mum Kate was," Turner told Nine News on Thursday evening.

"There's anger from the families this tragedy could occur -- not just that it happened, but also that there's been no contact from Dreamworld in the days since.

"When you think it's a ride that two-year-olds can go on, how can something like this happen?

"Until we get answers on how it happened and why it happened, I don't think any of us are going to rest," she said.

Queensland's Dreamworld theme park was scheduled to reopen on Friday with a memorial day for the four people who died on its Thunder Rapid Rivers ride, with a discounted entry fee going to the Red Cross.

Dreamworld confirmed the planned memorial service would not go ahead in a statement released at 4.30pm on Thursday, due to authorities' concerns it could hinder the police investigation.

"Dreamworld has been advised by Queensland Police Services that we are unable to proceed with tomorrow's memorial service as planned," the statement said.

"Obviously the integrity of the Coronial Investigation is of paramount importance and postponing the service will give QPS the time it needs to conduct this investigation."

Earlier on Thursday afternoon, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the police commissioner and the organisation were in discussions today about the park's reopening as "we need to allow police to do their job."

"We have specialist police working around the clock to find out what went so horribly wrong," Palaszczuk told media.

Police Assistant Commissioner Brian Codd told media he would not allow the speed of the investigation to be compromised.

"The appropriateness of opening the park is more to do with matters for the company, but we will be in dialogue with them with regards to the potential impact of opening it," Codd said.

"What we want to do is to try and allow Dreamworld to get back to operations, that is not our intent to get in the way of that, but let's be aware of what the implications will be for our ongoing security of the crime scene," he said.

Codd said authorities would be in a better position to make a decision on Thursday afternoon after speaking to the coroner and Dreamworld executives.

Four adults died on Tuesday after an accident on the water raft ride. The park has stayed closed since the incident, with serious safety questions raised over the operations of the park and its management. Executives at Ardent Leisure, the park's parent company, were grilled by media on Thursday over the accident and the quick reopening, after Wednesday announcing the memorial day.

"In partnership with the Australian Red Cross, Dreamworld will be hosting a Memorial Day on Friday, 28 October 2016. We hope this will be considered the start of the healing process for all concerned," Dreamworld said in a statement.

A private memorial ceremony is also scheduled for staff, friends and emergency services.

"The Park will open at 11.00am and entry proceeds from the day will go to the Australian Red Cross to support their continued community focused activities. From the Memorial Day, activities will be limited to smaller rides, animal attractions, and the water park," the statement continued.

"Australian Red Cross volunteers will be available throughout the day and we hope other local religious leaders will attend. Further details regarding the Memorial Day will be released in the near future."

Ardent Leisure, the parent company of the park, held its annual general meeting on Thursday. Following the meeting, company executives again defended the company's practices at a media conference.

"The safety auditors have been through the park yesterday and provided a report late last night that all the audits of all the maintenance records have been done. It was carried out by a team yesterday. We will be doing our own internal report and the engineering department and the safety team will be going through that park with a fine-toothed comb in the next 24 hours," said chairman Neil Balnaves.

Newspix via Getty Images
Aerial view of emergency services at the Thunder River Rapids ride

Balnaves also defended the decision to reopen the park so soon after the accident.

"After discussion with counsellors and a lot to do with the issues of people grieving, the decision was taken to turn tomorrow into a fundraising event to support the Red Cross and all the admission, the fees, will be donated to them," he said.

"The advice we have from psychologists and a lot of the people working with the staff, it is better that people get back to work and basically get together with their comrades and talk and deal with this issue rather than they are concerned about their jobs, and they're sitting at home in isolation, and we're just adding to their issues."

"It is a very fine park. At some point the park will open. And it's driven by the utmost respect for the families and the deaths, and it will open again on Saturday to basically repair the damage with a lot of our people as well."

CEO Deborah Thomas said it was made "compulsory" for staff to speak with counsellors.

"We have professional counsellors at Dreamworld working with the staff. We've actually made it compulsory that everybody see a counsellor. I think part of tomorrow is very much the beginning of the healing in terms of having a service," she said.

Questions have been raised, in light of the tragedy, over Thomas being in line to receive a large bonus. Thomas, the former editor of the Women's Weekly, defended herself against questions on this topic.

"In terms of my performance rights, that is a question for the board. It is a question for the shareholders. And it was voted today and it's not really the time to be discussing that right now, under the circumstances, either," she said.

"I'm not going to discuss anything to do with that at this stage... Four people died very recently, and we are all shattered by this. This is not something that we deal with very easily. So, right now, I do not want to discuss transactions at this point."

It has since been announced that Thomas will donate her cash bonus of $167,500 for the year to the Australian Red Cross, with the funds to go towards supporting the families, park staff and emergency service personnel affected by the tragedy.

Thomas' total bonus of $843,000 is a projected bonus over a four year period, Ardent Leisure explained on Thursday evening.

In a statement to the media, the CEO also acknowledged that she had yet to contact the victims' families, saying that she would do so in the coming days.

More On This Topic

Advertisement
Advertisement