THE coroner presiding over the Dreamworld inquest has demanded to see certificates proving all of the theme park’s rides were properly registered, specifically focusing on the five years leading up to the Thunder River Rapids tragedy of 2016.
Coroner James McDougall said it was “extraordinary” the Office of Industrial Relations still hadn’t provided evidence, more than three weeks into the inquest, relating to the proper registration of rides.
It is unclear if any of Dreamworld’s rides were properly registered under workplace health and safety laws, which require an external engineer to sign them off once a year.
Office of Industrial Relations lawyer Stephen Gray told the inquest he was unaware if the regulator knew Dreamworld was completing the required inspections.
“That’s an extraordinary statement,” Mr McDougall said.
“We’re almost 14 days into this inquest and the regulator hasn’t gone away to its records to see if there’s proof of inspection of rides carried out at Dreamworld over the past five years.
“You are aware that Dreamworld has been in existence for the past five years and millions of people have been attending.”
Dreamworld lawyer Bruce Hodgkinson interjected and said the theme park had been completing its own internal inspections with a senior engineer and had been filling out online forms for the regulator.
Mr McDougall told counsel assisting the coroner Ken Fleming, QC, it “could well be an issue” if there was no requirement to produce some form of written documentation proving that rides had been signed off.
The coroner has demanded proof all of Dreamworld’s rides were properly certified up until 2016.
It is expected Andrew Fyfe, who was the attractions and entertainment manager at the time of the incident, will testify for the rest of the day.
Earlier, Mr Fyfe was quizzed on a 2001 incident at the Thunder River Rapids, where almost exactly the same events of October 25, 2016, happened.
Fifteen years before the Thunder River Rapids ride claimed the lives of Cindy Low, Luke Dorsett, Kate Goodchild and Roozi Araghi, a number of empty rafts flipped and were crushed on the conveyor but Dreamworld found the risk of it happening again was “nil”.
In January 2001, a Dreamworld operator starting up the Thunder River Rapids ride became distracted talking to guests, which led to a number of rafts flipping over onto the conveyor.
Photos shown at the inquest revealed the extent of the damage to the ride’s rafts with many of the seats broken and splintered.
The theme park spoke to Workplace Health and Safety over the phone and it was agreed Dreamworld could conduct its own internal investigation into the incident.
The investigation, in its final outcome, found the two problems were that “the operation of start-up procedure was not adhered to” and “the operator did not follow correct emergency response procedure”.
The investigation also asked if the same situation could occur if there were guests on board.
“After review of all the operational procedures, it was concluded that the possibility of this same event occurring with guests on rafts is nil,” the report stated.
The report then went on to list the procedures that should’ve been followed to prevent the accident.
In 2014, the harrowing 2001 photos were shared in an email by Bob Tan, a former engineering manager for the theme park.
“I shudder when I think if there had been guests on the rafts,” Mr Tan wrote.
On the stand, Mr Fleming asked Mr Fyfe: “Given this was something under your responsibility, you would’ve preferred to have known about it?”
“Of course,” Mr Fyfe responded.
Earlier, the inquest again heard from external consulting engineer Thomas Polley, who took the stand for a second day.
In a draft report dated October 24, 2016, Mr Polley declared the Thunder River Rapids ride “mechanically and structurally sound”.
Mr Polley emailed Dreamworld’s general manager of engineering Chris Deaves and junior engineer Gen Cruz a day before the tragedy.
“Please find attached my draft report for the annual inspections of your Class 2 devices,” he wrote.
“Please get back to me at your earliest convenience after you have considered my draft report. I will begin sending 13 individual certificate/reports for the 13 Class 2 devices.”
Dreamworld was under pressure to have the Thunder River Rapids certified before the end of September, the date the ride would become unregistered.
Mr Polley told the inquest he was never provided with daily or annual maintenance updates.
The consulting engineer admitted he felt “some professional obligation to Dreamworld to get them out of the awful predicament they were in”.
Mr Hickey asked Mr Polley if he understood he had some “professional obligation” to the general public “to keep them safe”.
“I fully understand that,” he responded.