Dreamworld thrill ride that killed four in horrific accident 'had problems earlier in day'
Four people were killed in a "horrific" accident at one of Australia's biggest theme parks after a raft flipped on a white-water rapids ride, with witnesses describing how "everyone was screaming".
The accident at Dreamworld theme park about 2.20pm local time yesterday sent two people flying from the carriage and left two trapped inside.
Some witnesses said that there had been a problem with the same ride earlier in the day.
"They drained all the water out and then had to refill it back up, and then we were allowed to go," a witness told Channel Nine. "We were stuck there for about 30 to 40 minutes at least."
Authorities would not comment on the cause of the malfunction but dispatched forensics and workplace safety experts to investigate.
Police said the victims were two women, aged 32 and 42, and two men, aged 35 and 38. The names and nationalities have not been revealed but local media reported the four were related and their children may have been at the park.
Local TV network 9News reported that the victims were possibly from the same family and may have been visiting from interstate. 'NZ Herald' reported that one of the dead women was a New Zealander who lived in Australia with her husband and two children.
"The kids and people in there were screaming. It all happened so quickly. There were heaps of people crying, it all happened so fast," Leah Capes, a witness, told 'The Gold Coast Bulletin'.
"My sister and niece were on the ride, they are so traumatised. There is a woman hanging by her foot, crushed from the ride," another witness said.
Earlier this year, a person nearly drowned on a separate ride. The accident involved a conveyor belt system similar to that used in the rapids ride, according to Queensland's 'Courier Mail'.
Dreamworld, which is on the Gold Coast in the state of Queensland, attracts almost two million visitors each year.
Regarded as a family friendly - or "moderate thrill" - attraction, the 20-year-old rapids ride lasts about four minutes and sends up to six people per carriage down a foamy water track at speeds of up to 45kmh.
Dreamworld said it was investigating the cause of the "tragic" accident. The park, which has operated since 1981, has closed until further notice.
"Dreamworld is working as quickly as possible to establish the facts around the incident and is working closely with emergency authorities and police to do this," it said.
"Dreamworld's focus and priority is with the families of those involved in this tragedy."
Queensland's state premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the accident scene was "horrific".
"Everyone is in deep shock that this has actually happened at one of our most popular theme parks," she said.