CANBERRA – Four people were killed at Australia’s largest theme park Tuesday when a ride malfunctioned, police said.
Two men, ages 35 and 32, and two women, ages 42 and 38, were pronounced dead by police following the incident on the Thunder River Rapids Ride at the Dreamworld theme park in Queensland.
Police were called to the site after reports that “a number of people had been injured by a conveyor belt”.
“One of the rides had sustained some sort of malfunction, causing two people to be ejected from a ride, another two people were caught inside the ride,” said Gavin Fuller, acting senior operations supervisor for Queensland Ambulance Service.
Fuller said the victims had sustained injuries that were not survivable, adding that “a number” of staff from the ambulance service had been “deeply affected by this terrible incident”.
Inspector Tod Reid of the Queensland Police told reporters that an investigation is under way and police are trying to contact the victims’ families.
Dreamworld, located in Gold Coast, about 45 minutes from Brisbane, is the largest theme park in Australia. It includes animal attractions and more than 50 rides, according to its owner, Ardent Leisure.
In a statement, company secretary Alan Shedden said: “Dreamworld’s focus and priority is with the families of those involved in this tragedy.”
Craig Davidson, the park’s CEO, announced its closure at a news conference following the accident.
“At this stage, the park is closed and Dreamworld is working closely with police and emergency services to establish the facts around the incident. We are deeply shocked and saddened by this and our hearts and our thoughts go to the families involved and to their loved ones,” Davidson said.
Billed as a family ride, the Thunder River Rapids Ride has had problems in the past, according to a report by CNN affiliate Seven News.
US Olympian Matthew Centrowitz tweeted that he had just stepped off the ride when he learned that there were injuries.
“Dude! Just got off a ride 15 mins ago that has 1 person seriously injured & 2 others trapped. #Dreamworld,” the track star’s tweet read. The death toll was updated after Centrowitz’ tweet posted.
Opposition Labor party leader Bill Shorten tweeted his condolences to the families of those affected by the incident.
“Heartbreaking news from Dreamworld. Sending our love to the families of those who lost their lives in this devastating tragedy,” he wrote.
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said that incident marked “a very sad day for our city”.
“Our thoughts are with the families of those affected and the emergency staff in attendance.
“I urge everyone to show the respect needed as the relevant authorities undertake investigations in to what has occurred. A truly sad day for all,” Tate added.
Opened to the public on December 15, 1981, Dreamworld attracts around 1.8 million visitors each year.
Ardent Leisure also owns another theme park, WhiteWater World, as well as the Skypoint observation deck, d’Albora Marinas, AMF and Kingpin Bowling and Goodlife Health Clubs.