Rapids ride boat flips, kills 4 at Dreamworld

Edited: October 25, 2016, 7:04 AM

Four park visitors have died after a boat flipped on the Thunder River Rapids ride at Dreamworld on Australia's Gold Coast, local police reported Tuesday. An earlier report from the park stated that three people had died. A local news agency reports that the victims were two men, aged 38 and 35, and two women, aged 42 and 32.

The boat appeared to have flipped on or near a conveyor belt, according to video from local news helicopters.

The accident happened at 2:20pm local time on Tuesday, which is about midnight on Oct. 25 Eastern Time and 9:20pm Oct. 24 Pacific Time in the United States.

Online sources had listed Thunder River Rapids as an Intamin River Rapids ride, however the company issued a statement that it did not build the ride. (We are looking into finding the actual manufacturer now.) Intamin River Rapids rides can be found at many other parks around the world, including Disney, Six Flags and Cedar Fair. Local authorities and park officials are investigating the incident.

Replies (17)

October 25, 2016, 4:49 AM

This is just a horrible tragedy. The whole theme park community here is heartbroken. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims of this tragedy.

October 25, 2016, 5:15 AM

Well, the one at Great America is drained for Fright Fest.

Very strange! The Great America one has been there for almost 40 years without any issue. The Disney versions have also had a pretty good safety record compared to other attractions. There was that one incident with Kali River Rapids, but I think that had more to do with the rescue device than the actual ride.

October 25, 2016, 6:00 AM

I believe the dream world one is of a similar age Anthony. I have fond memories riding it about 28 years ago on my first visit.

Very sad to see this happen, I believe the park is remaining closed for now. I hope what is for my money the queen of Australian Thene Parks can recover from this.

October 25, 2016, 11:51 AM

I think anytime you fall on a conveyor in water it could be bad.

October 25, 2016, 1:41 PM

Most rapids rides in the US (Kali, Grizzly, Popeyes, all the Six flags and Cedar Fair ones) were built by Intamin. However this one was built by a different company.

October 25, 2016, 2:16 PM

This is a terrible tragedy and the worst theme park accident in a year that seems to have had more than usual. Thoughts are with the victims and their families.

After doing some research online, I'm pretty confident this ride is not made by Hopkins either, the other major supplier of rapids rides. Therefore, it is likely from a manufacturer who either no longer exists or who no longer makes these rides. As for what happened, from the video and pictures it appears that a raft got jammed just after the lift and for some reason the lift failed to stop, forcing the following raft into the jammed one and eventually flipping it. Given that the unload station is immediately after the lift, I'm surprised the attendant didn't spot the problem and hit an e-stop before the raft actually flipped.

October 25, 2016, 2:39 PM

The ride opened in 1986, so I'm going with AJ's theory about the manufacturer. It's a relatively old ride. Also curious about no e-stop. Many, many questions to be answered as I try to use questions about the investigation to crowd out the emotions over losing four people like this.

October 25, 2016, 3:03 PM

I guess this might end the idea that the Eureka Gold Mine (in the same section of the park) might reopen. That ride has been SBNO for some time, apparently it was too expensive to get up to code, but there was talk that the park had changed its mind on that....

Edited: October 26, 2016, 1:26 PM

The park is apparently reopening Friday (which will be late Thursday US time).

I know the smiler effect did lead to layoffs at Alton Towers, Hopefully that wont happen at Dreamworld. Australia is moving into the summer season and next door White Water World will likely be scaling up, so hopefully that will help offset any turndown in attendence.

I don't think (other than those two co-located parks) Ardent Leisure has much in the way of other theme parks. They do have an observation deck in the same general area, but most of their other assets are bowling alleys, laser skirmish, Healthclubs and marinas (In the US they own "Main Event").

October 26, 2016, 1:59 PM

Here's an article in which a former employee from back in the 1980s describes the raft boats flipping on the belt before the ride opened one day.

Honestly, I can't wrap my head around how this would happen, unless every sensor system was turned off... or the ride did not have them. Which is equally difficult for me to envision.

October 26, 2016, 2:15 PM

Apparently, a 10-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl where the other two occupants in the six-seat raft and were able to escape and survive. Here is a CNN article with a photo of what appears to be the flipped boat, along with additional detail in the story.

You'll need to excuse that the writer doesn't know the difference between a "flume" (a channel that carries water) and a boat/raft.

October 27, 2016, 4:24 PM


They didn't reopen on Friday after all. There's some dispute as to whom made the call. Dreamworld said it was to allow the police to do their investigation, Queensland Police say thats not accurate, and Dreamworld made the decision.

The CEO of Ardent Leisure has been getting a lot of flack for her response to the tradgedy, too worried about the AGM rather than calling victims families.

October 29, 2016, 4:43 PM

Just an Update, the Queensland State Government is going to start a review of all theme parks in its jurisdiction. This includes Warner Bros Movie World, Sea World, and Wet and Wild which are owned by Village Roadshow (I understand that Wet and Wild US is not related to Wet and Wild AU, and Sea World AU is definately not related to Sea World US).

>>>>"These events are being thoroughly investigated by authorities and in addition to this, safety auditors will be hitting Queensland theme parks from today.

>>>She said the public safety blitz would start at Dreamworld and would then move on to Wet'n'Wild, Sea World, Aussie World, Australia Zoo and Movie World.


>>>"The audits will be completed by the end of November and be carried out by specialist inspectors and engineers. They'll be looking at records inspection, maintenance and repair and manufacturer documentation in our theme parks.

>>>"Ride operator training and procedure records, along with controls and processes for taking out and returning equipment to service will also come under the spotlight in these safety audits.

Queensland is also going to tighten up its Health and Safety laws, including new offences for Gross negligence.

Whilst this does suggest something good will come out of the tradgety, Its a shame that it took lives being lost for this sort of thing to happen.

October 31, 2016, 9:29 AM

The union has been going after Dreamwold hard about another possible health and safety issue. The Cyclone (formerly the Big Dipper from Luna Park Sydney) has been operating with only one staff member. Supposedly the manual says two, but prefers three. Dream world say the manual refers to a different configuration and one man operation was only instituted after risk checks. Any coaster engineer types have any thoughts?

Edited: October 31, 2016, 5:43 PM

Chad, while I don't know the rules and procedures in Australia, I can say this: Having ridden over 350 roller coasters across the United States, it is extremely rare that I've seen anything larger than a junior coaster operated by one operator. The few times I have, it has usually been an old wooden coaster that still uses manual controls, and it always, always is a ride with only one train. While I am not familiar with the exact set-up of the Cyclone (aka Hot Wheels SideWinder), similar coasters I have seen elsewhere usually require a minimum of two operators. Generally, one operator is responsible for checking the restraints on each side of the train, then to dispatch it two buttons need to be pressed simultaneously: one in the main control booth and another on a remote panel located at the opposite end of the station on the opposite side of the track. For example, if the main panel is at the front right of the station, the remote panel will be in the back left. If Cyclone can be run by a single operator, it is either a different set-up or it is being operated in manual mode. In the former case, as long as the official operating procedure states that one operator is satisfactory, there is nothing wrong with it. In the latter, this should never be done on a ride with multiple trains, but on a single train coaster like Cyclone this would, again, be acceptable provided it is in the official operating procedure.

In my opinion, one operator on a single train coaster is not a safety hazard provided the operator is properly trained and they are not performing any other tasks while the ride is in motion. There is very little chance of an incident on a single train coaster, and an operator at the panel can easily stop the ride if necessary. However, this does result in extremely slow operations as the coaster essentially runs similar to a flat ride, hence why most parks staff two or three by default. A roller coaster with multiple trains should never operate with fewer than three staff members (an operator and two attendants) as someone must be at the panel at all times and having one person check all restraints would slow loading too much to justify the second train.

In other news, I did a little digging over the weekend and discovered that the Thunder River Rapids was apparently designed in house and all construction was done by Australian companies. This was not unusual at the time, as many of Dreamworld's early rides were not built by major manufacturers (excluding stock model flat rides). However, designs were sometimes licensed from European manufacturers. It is unclear whether any components were licensed from Intamin for the rapids, but there are some elements of the attraction that appear very similar to those found on Intamin rapids rides. That said, much of the attraction appears to have been modified over the years, including replacement of the turntable station with separate load and unload positions as well as modifications to the lift mechanism. Whether these modifications were a contributing factor or not is unknown, but from what we know so far I do not think it would be possible for such an incident to occur on a standard Intamin rapids ride, and if it did the damage would be much less severe.

October 31, 2016, 5:56 PM

I think a lot of Australian theme park rides of that age were in house. Bermuda Triangle/Lassiter's lost Reef at Sea World is jumping out at me as an example

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