Families on both sides of the Tasman are grieving after four people were killed on a ride at the Dreamworld, Gold Coast theme park.
Two women, aged 32 and 42, and two men, aged 35 and 38, died when a six-person circular raft on the Thunder River Rapids ride slammed into its own conveyor belt.
Three were from one family, on holiday from Canberra – Kate Goodchild, her brother Luke Dorsett and his partner Roozbeh Araghi.
The fourth was a 42-year-old New Zealand woman, originally from Kawerau, who had lived in Sydney for at least a decade with her Kiwi husband. They were on holiday with their son and daughter.
The woman and her 10-year-old son were on the ride; her husband and daughter were not. The boy is in hospital and his father is at the boy’s bedside.
From Canberra, Kate and Luke’s devastated mother Kim Dorsett said: “My family have been completely wiped out. I have three children and two of them are now gone.
“My eight-month-old granddaughter is never going to know her mother and that truly breaks my heart.”
The incident occurred around 2.20pm. The raft was close to the end of the ride when it flipped over.
Dreamworld staff drained the water and desperately attempted to administer first aid before paramedics arrived.
The park is expected to remain closed for several days as forensic officers, engineers and safety officials try to determine what went wrong.
Many witnesses said there were problems with the ride in the morning before the accident.
One girl said engineers were called to drain and inspect the ride. “We were waiting there for about half an hour and the engineers had to come.
“They drained all the water out and then had to refill it back up. Then we were allowed to go. We were stuck there for about 30, 40 minutes at least.”
The Thunder River Rapids ride is described as one of the park’s family rides, open to children as young as two, and has been operating for 34 years.
It is described as giving a “moderate thrill” allowing passengers to “travel down a foamy water track past the Gold Rush Country, speeding up to 45km/h through the turbulent rapids”.
Since 1995, Dreamworld has had at least five incidents where rides malfunctioned or had to be temporarily closed. Some of these left visitors injured or stranded.
The most recent unfolded six months ago, when a man fell from the Rocky Hollow Log Ride. He was taken to hospital with cuts to his head.
The log ride is near the Buzz Saw rollercoaster, which was shut down for more than a week in February 2015 after a problem with a safety harness. Thunder River is in the same area.
In January 2004 around 50 people were trapped on cable cars when a tree fell on the main cable suspending the ride.
Four years earlier, a gearbox problem on the Wipeout ride left thrillseekers stranded.
Problems have also beset the giant drop and, again, the cable cars, with two men injured after falling from a gondola in 1995.
Last month, a Sea World rollercoaster stopped mid-ride and a group of teenagers were forced to wait until staff could rescue them.