Dreamworld accident: Dreamworld faced almost A$2 million in lawsuits since 2010, court records reveal video

Dreamworld will remain closed at least until Monday following the accident which claimed four lives.
GLENN HUNT

Dreamworld will remain closed at least until Monday following the accident which claimed four lives.

Dreamworld faced almost A$2 million (NZ$2.13 million) in lawsuits in the years leading up to the rapids ride tragedy, with former park workers among those airing safety concerns.

Court documents revealed the theme park on Australia's Gold Coast, under pressure after the shock accident claimed four lives this week, faced more than half a dozen lawsuits since 2010.

In a claim filed last year, one former staffer suing for A$400,000 claimed he hurt his back moving a "motor coaster" that park operators had known was defective for two weeks.

A couple pay their respects at Dreamworld on Thursday.
GLENN HUNT

A couple pay their respects at Dreamworld on Thursday.

In 2011, a visitor sued the park's operator, Ardent Leisure, for A$750,000 over claims it was at fault for the dislocated shoulder he suffered in a 2008 accident on the FlowRider surf simulator, resulting in long term injury.

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Along with at least four other cases in the past six years, both have been discontinued with any potential settlement figures unknown.

Dreamworld didn't respond to questions about the lawsuits but has consistently stood up for its safety record.

On Thursday, it detailed several safety measures in place, defended its safety policies and procedures and promised to work closely with investigators.

A spokeswoman for the company said all ride operators were trained to "specific competency standards", rotated to prevent fatigue and a "unique" system prevented rides operating inadvertently.

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In Geoffrey Kelly's suit, he alleged the FlowRider operator told him to jump onto a bodyboard by doing a "barrel roll" but he landed awkwardly. Inside the ambulance, he was allegedly dropped and landed on his shoulder again.

Doctors' certificates filed along with the claim recommended the Gold Coast man, who turned 39 on the day of the Dreamworld tragedy, stay in a splint for six weeks and showed him still recovering from surgery months later.

"Motor coaster" claimant Leo Cassar said in July 2010 he and one other worker had been needed to move the vehicle because it was "pulling up short of the drive wheel".

Among a long list of criticisms over working conditions, he alleged Dreamworld "failed to have in place any adequate system of maintenance for the coaster cars".

In the same suit, filed in August last year, he claimed in 2012 he was required to place 20-kilogram sandbags into a coaster car for the first ride test of the morning.

On Thursday morning, a spokeswoman for the park had said procedures and systems were benchmarked against international best practice, with rides and slides checked daily before opening.

"If it's not tested, it doesn't open," she said.

Timothy Klumper wanted A$60,000 over a claim he hurt himself slipping on some wet stairs doing the pre-start testing of the park's Temple of Huey water slide in 2009.

Klumper claimed he had to do the job of two people in testing the ride before the park opened, taking a "dry run" down the slide to look for any problems before repeating it with water flowing.

"The plaintiff had to rush to get the Temple of Huey water slide checked before opening of the theme park because there were only three staff undertaking the safety checks that morning," his statement of claim read.

Queensland Law Society president Bill Potts believed potential lawsuits from Tuesday's tragedy could "run into the millions", with one law firm saying it had already been speaking to allegedly traumatised witnesses.

The Australian Workers' Union said it had raised ride operations issues with the operator of the past 18 months but wasn't happy with the results.

Dreamworld on Thursday morning questioned the "nature and timing" of the criticism.

Its lawyers have not been hesitant to defend against claims it disagreed with, citing the statute of limitations to fight one suit and using specific evidence to strenuously deny claims made in another.

In other suits filed over separate incidents across the past five years, one staffer claimed a hand injury due to repetitive work and another claimed she'd been forced to walk steps despite the Dreamworld staff knowing she had an injury,  which the park strenuously denied.

Initial claims shown in Queensland District Court documents available to inspect on Thursday totalled $1.99 million.

Meanwhile, it will be at least Monday before it's known when Dreamworld will reopen.

The Gold Coast theme park was scheduled to reopen with a "memorial day" on Friday, but that was ruled out by police who say the site remains a crime scene.

Assistant Commissioner Brian Codd said police would take as long as they need to gather evidence to determine what caused the deaths on the Thunder River Rapids ride on Tuesday.

 - Brisbane Times

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