GOLD COAST, Australia: Two children had a “miracle” escape when a raft flipped at an Australian theme park killing four adults, police said Wednesday, as claims emerged that safety concerns had been raised at Dreamworld last year.
Two women and two men died when two rafts on the Thunder River Rapids ride at the Gold Coast tourist attraction collided on Tuesday, tipping one backwards, with police saying the victims were “caught in machinery”.
But a boy and a girl, aged 10 and 12, on the six-person circular raft survived. Police initially identified them as two girls.
Reports, which police would not confirm, said they were the children of one of the dead women.
“It seems, from what I’ve seen, almost a miracle that anybody came out of that,” Queensland Police assistant commissioner Brian Codd told reporters after viewing CCTV footage of the tragedy.
“If we’re going to be thankful for anything, I’m thankful for that.”
He said it had been “absolutely traumatic” for the children who were now being cared for by family, as floral tributes were laid outside Australia’s largest theme park, which is hugely popular with domestic and overseas tourists.
Two of those who died were identified in local media as Canberra-based brother and sister Kate Goodchild, 32, and Luke Dorsett, 35, with their mother, who was holidaying with them, distraught.
“We are just devastated, absolutely devastated,” Kim Dorsett told the Brisbane Courier-Mail.
“I have three children and have lost two of them — my whole family has been wiped out.”
Queensland Ambulance officials said on Tuesday the ride, marketed as a family-friendly thrill, malfunctioned and Codd stressed a thorough investigation was underway to find out what went wrong.
Thirty detectives were at the scene with rafts taken away by a forensic team.
Ben Swan, the Queensland secretary of the Australian Workers Union, said the organization voiced serious concerns about the operation and maintenance of some equipment at Dreamworld last year, although not the river rapids ride.