Thunder River Rapids Ride

Last updated

Thunder River Rapids Ride
Thunder River Rapids Ride.jpg
The main rapids section of the Thunder River Rapids Ride.
Area Town of Gold Rush
Coordinates 27°51′44.44″S153°18′54.85″E / 27.8623444°S 153.3152361°E / -27.8623444; 153.3152361 Coordinates: 27°51′44.44″S153°18′54.85″E / 27.8623444°S 153.3152361°E / -27.8623444; 153.3152361
Opening date11 December 1986 (1986-12-11)
Closing date25 October 2016 (2016-10-25) [lower-alpha 1]
General statistics
Type River rafting ride
Length410 m (1,350 ft)
Speed45 km/h (28 mph)
Height restriction120 cm (3 ft 11 in)
Website Thunder River Rapids
Dreamworld Q4U availability.svg Q4U available

The Thunder River Rapids Ride was a river rapid type water ride located in the Town of Gold Rush section of the Dreamworld theme park on the Gold Coast, Australia. [3] After four riders were killed on it in late October 2016, the ride was closed. On 9 November 2016, Ardent Leisures' CEO announced that the ride would not reopen, and was to be demolished. In October 2017, police recommended that no criminal charges be laid against any person in relation to the deaths.


In February 2020 the Queensland Coroner, James McDougall, released his report detailing "irresponsible", "dangerous" and "inadequate" safety practices at Dreamworld that contributed to the four deaths. He recommended the Queensland Office of Industrial Relations consider a prosecution. In July 2020 Dreamworlds' parent company, Ardent Leisure, stated that three charges related to the deaths had been laid against them under the 'Work, Health and Safety Act'.


Gold Rush Country (now known as the Town of Gold Rush) opened on 11 December 1986. The area featured the Eureka Mountain Mine Ride and the Thunder River Rapids Ride. Although resembling an Intamin River rapids ride, Thunder River Rapids was neither built nor supplied by Intamin. A Sydney-based company was commissioned to supply the vessels in 1983. [4] The Thunder River Rapids Ride was among the most popular rides at Dreamworld until its closure. [5]


The rapids were achieved by logs attached to the base of a river channel. Thunder River Rapids Ride maintenance.jpg
The rapids were achieved by logs attached to the base of a river channel.


Riders entered a long indoor queue with several switchbacks. The queue then bridged across part of the ride's water storage area before reaching the circular station. This station originally featured a rotating platform which allowed riders to mount and dismount the boats without the need for the boats to stop.


Riders would board one of several six-person circular rafts. [6] The raft was dispatched and the riders travelled back past the ride's queue and into a cave. Upon exiting the cave, riders experienced the main rapids section of the ride. This section ran alongside a large water catchment which contained the water storage for the Thunder River Rapids Ride. The raft then went under the Eureka Mountain Mine Ride's station and headed back towards its own station. Before departing the ride, guests were brought back up to the level of the station by a conveyor belt. [7]

2016 incident and closure

On 25 October 2016, a malfunction of the Thunder River Rapids Ride resulted in the deaths of four people. [8] This is regarded as the worst accident at an Australian theme park since the 1979 Sydney Ghost Train fire at Luna Park Sydney. [4] Due to the failure of one of the two large water pumps essential for the ride's operation, the water level in the ride dropped quickly causing a raft, which was occupied by six guests, to become stranded on support rails near the end of the raft conveyor and unable to reach the unloading area. Approximately one minute later, another raft carrying six passengers moved down the conveyor and collided with the first stranded raft. Both rafts pivoted upwards driven by movement of the conveyor before the first raft fell back to a level position resting on support rails. The second raft was further moved by the conveyor into a vertical position and subsequently caused passengers to either fall out of the raft or become trapped in close proximity to the conveyor mechanism leading to fatal injuries for four passengers. The other two passengers, both children, were able to climb out of the raft, still in its vertical orientation, to nearby platforms once the conveyor had been shut down by ride staff. [9] Park operators stopped the ride and started draining the river, over 7 paramedic crews responded to the 000 call along with firefighters and police. [8] The recovery of the bodies went on into the early hours of the next morning with some paramedics requiring counseling due to the trauma of the scene.[ citation needed ]

Dreamworld released a statement on their website and Facebook page stating:

Dreamworld is currently closed until further notice due to a tragic incident at the park. We are deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic incident; our hearts and thoughts go out to the families involved and their loved ones. [10]

Dreamworld announced that the park would reopen on 28 October for a special memorial service for the victims. [11] However, the reopening to the public was subject to discussions with Queensland police as the ride was being treated as a crime scene. [12] The 28 October reopening was cancelled on 27 October. [13]

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate offered his condolences to the families of those affected and extended any support financially and emotionally to all those involved. [14] The then Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull offered his condolences and support, releasing a statement via Twitter; "I'm very saddened by the tragedy at Dreamworld today. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families." [15]

On 29 October, the Queensland Government announced a 'blitz' of safety inspections, and an audit of state workplace health and safety laws. [16]

The Busch Gardens Tampa theme park shut its Congo River Rapids ride in response to the incident, until the cause was determined. [17] [18] However, it was later reopened on 26 October after a review and safety check was completed. [19] [20]

On 9 November, Ardent Leisure chief executive Deborah Thomas announced that the ride would be permanently closed, out of respect to the victims and their families, and that they would be invited to help create a memorial in its place. [1] [2]

Dreamworld reopened its doors on 10 December 2016 for daily operation. The ride has since been dismantled and the location fenced off. [21] [22]


In a report to the Queensland Coroner in October 2017, Police recommended that no criminal charges be laid against any person. [23]

Coroner's report

The Queensland Coroner, James McDougall, released a report on 24 February 2020 detailing "irresponsible", "dangerous" and "inadequate" safety practices at theme park that contributed to the four deaths, while recommending the Queensland office of industrial relations consider a prosecution. The ride had endured frequent breakdowns in the days leading up to the accident, and had several design and construction issues which contributed. [24]

Mr McDougall told a Brisbane court Dreamworld had a reputation as a "modern, world-class theme park" yet its safety and maintenance systems were "rudimentary at best". [25]

and that:

... he would refer Dreamworld's parent company, Ardent Leisure, to the Queensland Office of Industrial Relations. He said Ardent Leisure "may have committed an offence under workplace laws". [25]


On 21 July 2020, it was announced that three charges had been laid against Ardent Leisure, Dreamworlds' parent company. The charges were filed by the Work Health and Safety prosecutor, under the Work Health and Safety Act, at the Brisbane Magistrates Court. The matter is scheduled for mention on July 29 in Southport Magistrates Court. [26]

One day before the scheduled trial, on 28 July 2020, Ardent Leisure pleaded guilty in the action. [27] A spokesperson declined comment. Ardent faces a penalty up to AU$4.5 million.


  1. Although the ride was temporarily closed after the incident on 25 October 2016, it was later deemed to be closed indefinitely. On 9 November 2016 it was shut permanently and later demolished, out of respect for the families involved. [1] [2]

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