High-profile visitor as Dreamworld makes solemn vow

 

DREAMWORLD'S bosses have vowed to transform the attraction into the global benchmark in theme park safety, as the fallout from the damning inquest findings continues.

Coroner James McDougall's scathing report could leaving Dreamworld and parent company Ardent Leisure facing multimillion-dollar fines if the Office of Industrial Relations decides to proceed with prosecution, but theme park officials say their day in court has only strengthened their resolve to ensure Dreamworld's long-term survival - and that such a tragedy never occurs again.\

Four-part special on Dreamworld tragedy

Dreamworld's top brass drew criticism for refusing to take questions at a media conference on Monday afternoon, but in an exclusive interview with The Courier-Mail, Ardent chairman Gary Weiss and Dreamworld CEO John Osborne said yesterday they had "moved heaven and earth" to enhance safety at the theme park, recruiting senior staffers from leading airlines and borrowing key strategies from the aviation industry.

Mr Weiss joined the board of Ardent almost a year after the 2016 tragedy, while Mr Osborne was appointed as Dreamworld CEO a year later.

Mr Osborne said the sobering inquest findings, and the cloud of possible heavy penalties for Dreamworld, were not surprising given the harrowing evidence presented during the public hearings and would not distract him from efforts to ensure the park becomes a world leader in safety standards.

Dreamworld CEO John Osborne reflects on the coroner’s report of the Thunder River Rapids tragedy and the park’s future. Picture: Adam Head
Dreamworld CEO John Osborne reflects on the coroner’s report of the Thunder River Rapids tragedy and the park’s future. Picture: Adam Head

"My level of determination as CEO is even greater now than it was before I attended yesterday's hearing," he said.

"Ardent has acknowledged that there could be a prosecution for some time... but it doesn't change anything from our perspective in terms of what we're doing.

"We can assure the public that with respect to safety systems, we have absolutely moved heaven and earth to enhance and improve what was here."

He again expressed sympathy for families of the victims and hoped the park's safety overhaul would be a lasting legacy.

"I can only imagine, in fact I can't really imagine, how this has impacted their lives but I do hope that the fact that the coroner's report is now released that it gives them some closure," he said.

"Which is easy for me to say but while we can't change the past, what happened in 2016 drives our actions every single day."

 

Ashlee Jones, Ryley Berry 6, Zoe Berry 8 and Tony Berry from Perth make a visit to Dreamworld on their holidays. Picture: Adam Head.
Ashlee Jones, Ryley Berry 6, Zoe Berry 8 and Tony Berry from Perth make a visit to Dreamworld on their holidays. Picture: Adam Head.

 

 

Mr Weiss, who described evidence from the inquest as "confronting", said he wanted Dreamworld to flourish as a global leader in theme park safety.

"Our goal, our fervent wish, is that Dreamworld continues, thrives and again becomes a much-loved part of the local population's hearts and the hearts of many, many Australians for whom Dreamworld has for such an extended period of time been almost a rite of passage," he said.

Buried in among the 274-page coroner's report - much of it scathing in its critique of Dreamworld's safety standards and practices over the years - there was also a glimmer of light.

Mr McDougall acknowledged the progress of the new management team, citing the "significant changes" that had been made in relation to the auditing and inspection of rides.

Both men delivered statements to the media after Monday's findings, but were criticised for not taking questions from journalists.

 

 

Mr Weiss said he did not think it was appropriate to respond to questions about Dreamworld's systemic failure that led to the tragedy under a previous administration.

"We are willing to be held responsible and accountable for things that are under our control," he said.

"It's not for John or myself... to respond to matters that may have occurred when we were not in this organisation (beyond expressing our deepest sympathies to the families involved)."

It was a quiet day of trade for Dreamworld yesterday, but that is not unusual with school having resumed weeks ago.

Former world surfing champion Mark Occhilupo, of Tweed Heads, was one of those bringing their families to Dreamworld.

Tony Berry and his family had travelled from Perth for a Gold Coast holiday, and said he had confidence in Dreamworld moving forward.

"We had no issues coming here," he said.

"I think that after the accident they would have given everything to make sure it's safe."

 

Local surfing legend Mark Occhilupo (yellow shirt) arrives at Dreamworld with family yesterday. Picture: Adam Head
Local surfing legend Mark Occhilupo (yellow shirt) arrives at Dreamworld with family yesterday. Picture: Adam Head

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