Dreamworld electrical staff 'distracted' by faults that day: inquest

The accident scene at Dreamworld on the day of the tragedy. Photo: AAP. Courtesy: Brisbane Times

Electrical maintenance staff at Dreamworld were “distracted” by an electrical fault in another area of the theme park the day four people died, a ride maintenance operator told an inquest on Friday. 

Fitter and turner Matthew Robertson was rostered to complete daily inspections of the Buzzsaw, Rocky Hollow Log Ride and Thunder River Rapids Ride on October 25, 2016, the day Sydney mother Cindy Low, Canberra visitor Kate Goodchild, her brother Luke Dorsett and his partner Roozi Araghi were killed on the rapids ride.

On a “very busy day” maintenance crews could be sent to 20 “code six” events, where rides stopped working properly, Mr Robertson told the inquest on Friday.

He said he was sent to the first “code six” earth fault at the southern pump on the Thunder River Rapids Ride about 11.50am.

After restarting the southern pump with an electrician, Mr Robertson asked the electrician to explain how to restart the pump in future so he would not have to come back.

“There were distracted that day. There were other electrical issues that needed to be resolved in another area of the park,” he said.

“The electrical department were stretched resource-wise on that particular day.”

Mr Robertson said he believed the other problem was a plant room issue.

He said he was called back at 1.09pm, when the southern pump “earth faulted again”.

On that occasion he spoke with ride operator Chloe Brix, who the inquest heard had questioned how frequently the pumps could fail before the ride would be shut down.

Mr Robertson said policy required three breakdowns before a ride was shut down.

He said he “ran back” to the Thunder River Rapids Ride when he heard of the third “earth fault” at the ride.

Mr Robertson told the inquest he was also aware of problems where a water level sensor was giving false readings on the ride that month.

However, he said he was not aware of a previous incident in which rafts had flipped.

Mr Robertson at first asked to be excused from giving evidence on grounds his answers might incriminate him with responsibility for the four deaths.

Coroner James McDougall ordered he give evidence to the inquest in the public interest.

Counsel for Dreamworld operators Ardent Leisure asked Mr Robertson if the maintenance teams carried out individual checks on every ride each morning before the ride opened.

“Yes, that’s correct,” Mr Robertson said.

He was asked if he checked the seven rafts including safety belts and their flotation devices on the morning of the tragedy and found there was no leaking.

“Yes, I did.”

He was asked if the ride would not open if he was not able to satisfactorily inspect some aspects of the ride. “Yes that is correct.”

Earlier, Ms Brix told the inquest she heard through office “gossip” an employee had been dismissed years earlier after he stopped the Thunder River Rapids Ride conveyor.

Ms Brix said she was not told rafts had come into contact during that incident, much as they had on the afternoon when four people died.

“I haven’t been told that, “ Ms Brix told the inquest after being questioned by Steven Whybrow, representing the Dorsett family.

Mr Whybrow said he raised the issue because on the afternoon of October 25, 2016, the water levels dropped and the rafts collided, resulting in the deaths. Ms Brix was operating the ride that morning.

Ms Brix told the inquest she was not trained in first aid.

Mr Robertson also said he was not trained in first aid, but had completed emergency drills on the Wipeout ride.

The inquest continues.