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Dreamworld suing engineer who certified fatal Thunder River Rapids ride


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Dreamworld’s owners have taken legal action against the engineer who certified the Thunder River Rapids ride as safe just a day before the disaster which claimed the lives of four tourists.

Ardent Leisure, which owns the Gold Coast theme park, has blamed engineer Tom Polley for the October 2016 tragedy and the fact it had to pay staff more than $5m in compensation, according to court documents.

The company has launched Supreme Court action against Mr Polley and his company Danski Pty Ltd, seeking damages for negligence and breach of contract. The claim reveals 15 affected Dreamworld staff received payouts of between $110,000 and $700,000 each.

 

Mr Polley and Danski are defending the claim, alleging Ardent had “consistently failed to carry out its obligations under the Workplace Health and Safety Act” and was itself responsible for the disaster.

In its claim, Ardent says Danski was contracted in August 2016 to give the ride its annual inspection for Workplace Health and Safety registration.

Court documents allege that on October 24, 2016 – a day before the fatal accident – Mr Polley provided a certificate stating that the Thunder River Rapids ride was “mechanically and structurally safe” provided one fault was fixed. 

But the following day, a pump on the ride failed, the water level plunged and two rafts collided – one of them flipping and tipping patrons onto the conveyor belt.

Canberra tourists Kate Goodchild, her brother Luke, his partner Roozbeh Araghi and NSW woman Cindy Low died in the tragedy.

Ardent claims that Mr Polley provided an inspection certificate stating that the Thunder River Rapids ride was mechanically and structurally safe to operate “when it was not”. The claim alleges that the engineer failed to identify safety issues including the absence of a water level detection system that would see the conveyor automatically shut down in the event of a pump failure.


In their defence, Danski and Mr Polley state that Ardent had pleaded guilty to breaching the Workplace Health and Safety Act by failing to provide and maintain safe plant, safe systems of work and staff training. Danski and Mr Polley said they were told by Dreamworld in August 2016 the inspection was needed to maintain registration “when in fact the Thunder River Rapids ride was not registered at all” between about January 2016 and January 2017.

The Board of Professional Engineers has been asked to hand over all records relating to Mr Polley since 2013 as part of the legal action. In inquest findings handed down last year, Coroner James McDougall recommended that Mr Polley be referred to the Board. 

Ardent was fined $3.6m last year for Workplace Health and Safety breaches.

https://www.goldcoastbulletin.com.au/news/queensland/dreamworld-suing-engineer-who-certified-fatal-ride/news-story/98d322959eb0763935db412810198b6e?fbclid=IwAR3ElgP6N2kSvK032AUfi2iRw3FHA60QkFwVb5fKa-Fsu7VA6paUZA7K7Uo

 

IMO… this is the worst possible time for DW to be back in the media reminding people about TRRR and 4 park guests being killed.

They are about to launch their “silver bullet” attraction that’s hoped to reinvigorate and restore the parks status, and for that to be successful they really need a clear run of negativity in the lead up. 
 

I don’t think trying to recoup $5m in losses, or attempting to pass the buck to someone else (especially when the investigation was so damning in long term failures across the board) is worth the potential damage that getting their game back on the media cycle in a negative way may cause. 

its also just over a week away from the 5th anniversary, and the timing for me is little insensitive in that regard. 
 

I also truly hope that they don’t use the anniversary as an opportunity to promote/reveal the memorial garden. That isn’t something that should be given fanfare. It should just quietly open and be accessible, it isn’t an attraction

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Just now, Naazon said:

Correct me if I read this wrong, but is the Danski/Polley defence "Ardent screwed up so our screw up doesn't count"?

Or possibly upon being incorrectly/falsely told that the ride was already registered that year, which in itself involves audits and checks, that their own audit was not as thorough as it should/could have been had they been aware of all the facts. Two wrongs don’t make a right but it wouldn’t be the first time someone has half-assed a job believing the previous person did sufficient groundwork to comply. 

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1 hour ago, Brad2912 said:

IMO… this is the worst possible time for DW to be back in the media reminding people about TRRR and 4 park guests being killed.

They are about to launch their “silver bullet” attraction that’s hoped to reinvigorate and restore the parks status, and for that to be successful they really need a clear run of negativity in the lead up. 
 

I don’t think trying to recoup $5m in losses, or attempting to pass the buck to someone else (especially when the investigation was so damning in long term failures across the board) is worth the potential damage that getting their game back on the media cycle in a negative way may cause. 

Litigation timelines don't generally take into account 'reputational timing' - this was probably filed some time ago - and as mentioned - is probably being steered by the insurance company who couldn't give a shit about the timing either. 

While the investigation was damning of the park and processes, it was also damning of this engineer. The article you quoted doesn't mention it that I could see, but another article I read this morning did note that the engineer was specifically named by the Coroner and the Coroner recommended that the engineer be referred to the board of engineers to determine whether he acted within the board's guidelines. My guess is the board have completed that review.

58 minutes ago, Brad2912 said:

Or possibly upon being incorrectly/falsely told that the ride was already registered that year, which in itself involves audits and checks, that their own audit was not as thorough as it should/could have been had they been aware of all the facts. Two wrongs don’t make a right but it wouldn’t be the first time someone has half-assed a job believing the previous person did sufficient groundwork to comply. 

An engineer certifying any plant or machinery doesn't just take the owner's word for it that it was recently inspected - they check last inspection tags for appropriate, certified proof. If he failed to determine the last certified inspection, how could he have known what to review and what not to?

The burden was on him to do a complete (not half assed) job.

This doesn't absolve Ardent, but he is just as culpable if the information in the Inquest is true.

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2 minutes ago, TomiJ said:

More people die crossing the road. 

You dont say??! Im shocked!  :P

I think 2 separate incidents involving the same model type in less than a decade is more than enough to consider the safety of these rides. How often do you see ride malfunction killing someone? Most fatalities at theme parks are caused by human error.

It may not have the death toll associated with inherantly dangerous activity, but considering thousands of people ride these daily with little to no assumption of risk, we should be asking these questions.

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It's essentially an out-of-control boat...

Once it dispatches, it has a mind of its own (with only water and little obstructions beneath the surface to create the rapids feature somewhat controlling the raft) until it comes to a conveyor belt or something.

Given I have never ridden a Rapids ride before, I'll have to make second thoughts whether I do essentially board one or not (I'll most likely board but we'll see).

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16 hours ago, Coasterjoe said:

Its definitely become a ride model I question riding now anywhere. 

The majority of injuries and deaths caused by rapids rides are the riders doing the wrong thing and falling out. The minority is people falling out because something was wrong with the ride or raft (tube inflation, water flow, too much weight, etc)
Meanwhile the Dreamworld incident was purely a clusterfuck waiting to happen and it really seems like that was the only rapids ride in the world with the safety flaws to allow it to happen.

Generally if you sit and stay put, you'll have no problems. You stand up and dick around, you're gonna have a bad time.

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53 minutes ago, JoshiYomanto said:

The majority of injuries and deaths caused by rapids rides are the riders doing the wrong thing and falling out. The minority is people falling out because something was wrong with the ride or raft (tube inflation, water flow, too much weight, etc)
Meanwhile the Dreamworld incident was purely a clusterfuck waiting to happen and it really seems like that was the only rapids ride in the world with the safety flaws to allow it to happen.

Generally if you sit and stay put, you'll have no problems. You stand up and dick around, you're gonna have a bad time.

So how do you explain the casualty at adventureland park? What caused the raft to tip? 

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8 minutes ago, Brad2912 said:

From reports the raft was under-inflated so the buoyancy was below prescribed. The tyre then was caught/flipped over on part of the rapids mechanisms. 

Man its so tragic... :(

There just seems to be too much room for error than comfortable. 

- Free flowing rafts that are not controlled outside of the conveyer belts 

- susceptible to mechanical faults that can cause collisions and tipping

- Inflatable rafts vunerable to pressure changes 

- Riders are restrained, so in the event of a tip drownings are more likely. 

Im not saying they are inherantly dangerous and should be banned, I am just saying I think for these particular rides a lot more thought needs to go in to how to make them safer. 

Im really showing I am a parent now haha :P

 

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Thats one of the arguments for basic style belts like on the thunder river rapids. In the event of raft flipping or becoming submerged, the passengers can remove the velcro restraints very easily and exit the craft vs buckled in style belts which provide a greater risk of drowning.

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On 21/10/2021 at 11:34 PM, Coasterjoe said:

I think 2 separate incidents involving the same model type in less than a decade is more than enough to consider the safety of these rides.

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned it but it has to be mentioned that the Adventureland model was manufactured by Intamin. 

The Dreamworld Thunder River model was made in-house by the park, essentially copying 'by sight' - they had rafts built based on seeing overseas models and all the safety systems and controls were bodged together without much external influence.

On 22/10/2021 at 6:14 PM, Coasterjoe said:

Man its so tragic... :(

There just seems to be too much room for error than comfortable. 

- Free flowing rafts that are not controlled outside of the conveyer belts 

- susceptible to mechanical faults that can cause collisions and tipping

- Inflatable rafts vunerable to pressure changes 

- Riders are restrained, so in the event of a tip drownings are more likely. 

Im not saying they are inherantly dangerous and should be banned, I am just saying I think for these particular rides a lot more thought needs to go in to how to make them safer. 

Im really showing I am a parent now haha :P

 

It's worth mentioning that many river boat and log flumes also do have many of these issues (sans inflation issues), but in most cases, raft restraints are no more than velcro straps (that after a while don't stick very well anyway).

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3 hours ago, bladex said:

ardent trying to once again blame others when it was 100% their fault due to cutting corners and shoddy safety record.

As mentioned it's very likely the insurance company that's pursuing this to minimise their losses and it's not current leadership that's going down this avenue.

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