Ardent Leisure has been handed what it has described as “the largest fine in Queensland history for a workplace tragedy” over the deaths of four patrons at Dreamworld in 2016.
The ASX-listed company pleaded guilty to a trio of charges brought against it by prosecutors for Queensland Work Health and Safety in the Southport Magistrates Court in late July. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of $1.5 million.
The prosecutors claimed that Ardent Leisure failed to comply with health and safety duty, leading to the deaths of Roozbeh Araghi, Luke Dorsett, Kate Goodchild and Cindy Low while they were all on the Thunder River Rapids ride at Dreamworld more than four years ago.
Ardent Leisure chairman Dr Gary Weiss and CEO John Osborne, who were both appointed to their respective roles in the years following the tragic incident, said in a joint statement yesterday that the company had accepted the court’s decision to impose $3.6 million fine.
“Ardent apologises unreservedly for the past circumstances and failures at Dreamworld that resulted in the tragic loss of four lives and for the deep and ongoing impact on so many people: the families and friends of those who passed away, other guests, first responders, emergency services, Dreamworld team members, and the many other people involved who have also been affected,” the statement read.
“The Ardent board and the new Dreamworld leadership team would like to express their deepest sympathies to the families of Roozbeh Araghi, Luke Dorsett, Kate Goodchild and Cindy Low for the enormous loss to each of them from the terrible tragedy which occurred at Dreamworld, nearly four years ago, and the ongoing suffering from that loss.
“Ardent accepts responsibility for this tragedy without qualification or reservation.
“Following the first public hearing in June 2018, Ardent indicated that it would implement all of the coroner’s recommendations, and more recently, it pleaded guilty at the first opportunity to all three charges brought by the Work Health and Safety prosecutor.”
Weiss and Osborne said there has been “considerable change” at Dreamworld over the last few years driven by its new leadership team, which has resulted in a “complete overhaul” of the theme park’s safety systems.
Ardent Leisure’s bosses also noted that the majority of families, first responders and others impacted by the tragedy have received compensation.
“The Ardent board has, and continues to, press for the expeditious resolution of the remaining claims noting that, in the case of compensation for minors, the court’s approval is required before compensation can be finalised,” the statement read.
“The construction of the Memorial Garden announced in February was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this project will recommence in the next few months following consultation with immediate family members.
“We sincerely hope the finalisation of the prosecution will go some way towards furthering the healing process for families and all those impacted by the tragedy.”
Featured image source: iStock/catchlights_sg