Stock under the Spotlight: Ardent Leisure Penalised Over Dreamworld Deaths

Stock under the Spotlight: Ardent Leisure Penalised Over Dreamworld Deaths

Summary

  • 2016’s Dreamworld Thunder River Rapid ride incident was one of the worst tragedies in Australia, which took the lives of four people.
  • Coroner James McDougall’s recommendation report found lags on the operational front and recommended a few steps which were required to be implemented.
  • Dreamworld has taken significant and proactive measures to enhance safety across the entire park, as guided in the report.
  • Today, the Queensland Work Health and Safety Prosecutor filed three charges against Ardent Leisure Limited in the Brisbane Magistrates Court related to this incident.

The accident on Dreamworld Thunder River Rapid ride at the Dreamworld park in 2016 is considered as one of the worst incidents in the history of Australia in which four lives were lost.

Presently, there are three charges against Ardent Leisure Group Limited’s subsidiary Ardent Leisure Limited. In this article, we would look at the allegations, understand the changes made by the Company, and see Coroner’s recommendations on this tragedy.

Ardent Leisure Group Limited (ASX:ALG)

Ardent Leisure Group Limited is the owner and operator of theme parks and family entertainment centres in Australia.

On 21 July 2020, the Company admitted that the Queensland Work Health and Safety Prosecutor filed three charges against Ardent’s subsidiary Company Ardent Leisure Limited in the Brisbane Magistrates Court, evolving from the Thunder River Rapids Ride tragedy in 2016. For information, Ardent Leisure Limited is the operator of Dreamworld.

All three charges are Category 2 charges according to section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld).  Each charge involves a maximum fine of A$1.5 million.

On 18 June, Ardent Leisure Group Limited had announced that a shareholder class action was served against it concerning the tragedy that happened in October 2016.

The proceedings were filed in the Federal Court of Australia by Piper Alderman in support of people who acquired Ardent shares between 17 June 2014 and 25 October 2016.

About Dreamworld Ride Incident:

Dreamworld Ride Incident took place on 25 October 2016 on the Dreamworld Thunder River Rapid ride (TRRR) which resulted in four deaths.

Due to the failure of a big water pump required for the ride’s functioning, the water level in the ride dropped quickly causing a raft to get stuck on support rails near the end of the conveyor and could not reach the unloading region. In the next minute, a second raft was moved by the conveyor into a vertical position. This resulted in passengers either falling from the raft or getting trapped in close vicinity to the conveyor mechanism, leading to the death of four passengers. Dreamworld reached the families via the police liaison offer to provide their unwavering support.

Dreamworld is Australia’s biggest theme park which has 50 rides and attractions along with wildlife within ten different worlds. Dreamworld has the biggest & fastest thrill rides in Australia plus areas devoted to DreamWorks Animation™, The Wiggles and ABC KIDS™, providing fun for people of all age group.

In support of the guest and staff at that time, the Company established a program of grief counselling with Queensland Health and the Australian Red Cross. The Red Cross was working with the affected families directly and was providing them with advice and support for grieving community members.

 The Company assured that during the time of the incident, the park complied with all the necessary safety certifications. Also, the Thunder River Rapids ride had completed its annual mechanical and safety engineering on 29 September 2016.

Ardent Leisure, at that time, confirmed that several consultancy visits to support in the implementation was undertaken, and regular training programs were included with the Senior leadership which were kept then well-informed of legislative requirements and changes.

Changes post the tragedy:

In the past few years, there have been considerable changes at Dreamworld admitted the Coroner in his report. Further, Dreamworld has taken substantive and proactive steps were taken to enhance safety across the entire park. It continues to work on the enhancement the existing systems and practices as well as adopt new ones as Dreamworld develop and implement safety case as per new major amusement park safety regulations of the Queensland Government.

The new leadership is committed to improve and enhance safety systems and practices to become a global industry leader in theme park safety and operations.

Coroner’s Findings into Dreamworld Tragedy:

In the report released by Coroners Court of Queensland, it was pointed that there was a failure in obeying the start-up procedure. It was also concluded that the operator did not follow the proper emergency response procedure. A review of TRRR’s operational procedures was conducted. A likelihood of the same event happening while guests were on the rafts was assumed as ‘nil’. The outcome was based on the reasoning below:

  • There would have been two people running the ride.
  • No loaded rafts are supposed to be dispatched in the absence of the second operator. Presence of the operator would eliminate the rafts banking up at the unload area.
  • The dispatch time between the rafts would have been more. The gap between the dispatch time gives Deckhand and No. 1 operator time to react to the situation.
  • The report also highlighted that the Deckhand would have seen the situation as it was growing and been able to respond in a timelier way and/or followed correct emergency measures.

It was also admitted that there had been a failure in the communication process & warning using the two-way broadcast. Because of this, the incident was not considered as a ‘Code 222-Grey’ but instead dubbed ‘operational’.

Coroner’s Recommendations:

  • Emergency Response Scenario Training for all Ride Operator.
  • A need for a review of determining notification of broadcast from Code 222 phone calls.
  • Human Resources was advised to pitch in regarding the incorrect operation of the ride.
  • Need for the amendment in the procedure so that Operator and the Deckhand should be available to start the ride on all instances.

At the end of the day’s trade on 21 July, ALG shares soared ~10.45% and settled at A$0.370.

 


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