Only ‘catastrophe’ training was how to use fire hose
THE Dreamworld junior ride operator stationed just metres from the Thunder River Rapids disaster has told how she felt pressured not to talk to police and that more training could have avoided the horror altogether.
Appearing in the witness stand on the third day of a coronial inquest on the Gold Coast, Courtney Williams recounted the events surrounding the deaths of Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett, Roozi Araghi and Cindy Low on the ride in October 2016.
Ms Williams said she had never received first aid or CPR training and that her only instruction on how to handle a "catastrophe" was limited to "using a fire hose".
Ms Williams, who was 21 at the time of the disaster, had worked at the Gold Coast theme park for 18 months and was a proficient Level 2 or Level 3 operator on several park attractions.
However, despite previously working on Thunder River Rapids as a Level 1 "deckhand", she had only that morning completed the 90 minutes of training to move to a Level 2 ride operator - a requirement for manning the unload station where she later watched the accident unfold.
Just after 2pm, Ms Williams tried to activate a gate release button to bring a raft back to the unload area, but nothing happened and the raft remained stuck on the conveyor belt.
She told the inquest she turned her back on the conveyor belt for "10-15 seconds" to look in the direction of senior ride operator Peter Nemeth, but he also had his back to her as he was ushering guests on to a raft.
By the time he turned around and activated an emergency stop button on the main control panel, it was too late.
In the aftermath, Ms Williams went on to the conveyor belt to help Ms Low's son, one of two survivors from the flipped raft.
Under cross-examination by Toby Neilsen, barrister for Mr Araghi's family, she said she had been told not to speak to police by "Troy", who she believed was second in charge at the park.
Shortly after the accident, Ms Williams told police: "The first person I saw when I walked back (to the Thunder River Rapids ride) was Troy. He was high up in the management side of things."
The inquest heard she was told "not to say anything to anyone, not to give any statements and wait to the side".
A police officer then asked the ride operator for a statement and after "looking to Troy for permission", Ms Williams went with the officer.
The staffer allegedly asked the officer, "do it (take the statement) somewhere else".
"Was it your interpretation of that, that Troy was worried about what you might say to people?" Mr Neilsen asked.
"I didn't really think about it," Ms Williams said.
Mr Neilsen then asked: "Did you feel under any pressure not to speak to police?"
"Yes," she replied.
Asked if the person was Dreamworld's general manager of park operations, Troy Margetts, she said she did not know the manager's surname.
Ms Williams was also questioned extensively about her training and knowledge of safety procedures.
Acting for the family of Ms Low, barrister Matthew Hickey asked: "Do you have an impression, thinking back on it, as to how this entire thing could have been avoided, to ensure that we weren't here today talking about this?"
"I believe more training," Ms Williams replied.
"I believe it should be longer as I did not believe I had sufficient training on parts I now know I should have known."
Asked if she was trained to prepare for "catastrophes", Ms Williams replied: "Aside from using a fire hose, no."
The emergency stop button was just metres from Ms Williams but she told the inquest she had been told that morning, "don't worry about it, nobody uses it" and had no idea what purpose it served.
The button would have stopped the ride almost seven seconds sooner than the one activated by Mr Nemeth.
However, under questioning by barrister Steven Whybrow, acting for the families of Ms Goodchild and Mr Dorsett, Ms Williams said she would not have activated it even if she had known its function unless she had the go-ahead by Mr Nemeth.
"Why wouldn't you take matters into your own hands?" he asked.
"I was not trained on it," she replied.
Ms Williams said she had never sought more information or clarification about training on emergency or shutdown procedures.
"You don't know what you don't know," she said.
Ms Williams will continue giving evidence when the inquest resumes on Thursday.
EXPLOSIVE EVIDENCE ON DAY THREE
■ Ride operator Courtney Williams told the inquest a senior staff member at the park made her feel pressured not to speak to police after the tragedy.
■ Ms Williams told the inquest she believed more training would have helped avoid the fatal accident.
■ Ms Williams and fellow operator Peter Nemeth were not given first aid or CPR training before working on the ride.
■ Ms Williams told the inquest the ride was one of the "top two" in terms of complexity and because it was a water ride, which meant there were more things to focus on.
■ Documents indicate the ride's first-aid kit was not fully stocked in the days leading up to the accident.
■ As part of his role, Mr Nemeth was expected to perform 20 tasks and monitor 16 potential hazards for every raft he loaded - in less than one minute. Mr Nemeth agreed when questioned that the number of required tasks was "impossible" for a human to complete in less than one minute.
■ Mr Nemeth told the inquest during cross-examination he did not have time to reach the
two-second e-stop button, which would have stopped the ride's conveyor up to seven seconds earlier than the stop button he pressed.