Sparky fights back tears at ride restart

AN EMOTIONAL Dreamworld electrician has issued a heartfelt message to relatives of the Thunder River Rapids victims, telling an inquest yesterday he never would have restarted the ride if he had "the slightest inkling that anything like this could have happened".

His voice breaking, Francoire De Villiers, who fixed a fault on the ride just hours before the 2016 disaster that left four tourists dead, offered his "sincere condolences" to the families from the witness stand as he finished giving evidence.

It came soon after harrowing video footage of the accident was played to a closed Southport Coroners Court yesterday afternoon.

Kim Dorsett, mother of Kate Goodchild and Luke Dorsett, arrives for the inquest on the Gold Coast on Wednesday. Picture: AAP/David Clark
Kim Dorsett, mother of Kate Goodchild and Luke Dorsett, arrives for the inquest on the Gold Coast on Wednesday. Picture: AAP/David Clark

Coroner James McDougall is probing the deaths of Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett, Roozi Araghi and Cindy Low, whose raft collided with another and flipped on the ride on October 25, 2016, tipping them onto the conveyor belt.

The inquest heard that the month before the tragedy, Mr De Villiers was issued with a "final written warning" for a "serious breach of safety" over an incident on a Dreamworld log ride, when passengers were badly jolted.

Dreamworld electrician Francoire De Villiers (centre) leaves Southport Magistrates Court after giving evidence at the inquest into the Dreamworld disaster yesterday. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled
Dreamworld electrician Francoire De Villiers (centre) leaves Southport Magistrates Court after giving evidence at the inquest into the Dreamworld disaster yesterday. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled

The hearing was also told that two hours before the disaster, Mr De Villiers fixed a recurring trip fault on one of the Thunder River Rapids ride's two "critical" water pumps. He told an engineer colleague that "everything was definitely fine", and showed him how to reset the pump if it happened again.

The pump failed a second time about an hour later, then a third time soon after, triggering the disaster.

The electrician agreed the persistent malfunctions "rang alarm bells", and he immediately alerted a supervisor.

"I would never have started it up even if I had the slightest inkling that anything like this could have happened," Mr De Villiers told the hearing.

In other evidence, former Thunder River Rapids operator Joe Stenning told of the "unreal" and "frightening" moment rafts collided and flipped on the ride in 2001.

Photos of that incident - just before the park opened for the day - showed a tangle of upturned rafts just metres from where the four tourists died 15 years later.

Another Dreamworld electrician, Jacob Wilson, said he raised concerns about a Thunder River Rapids conveyor switch, but these were dismissed. Electricians also raised concerns about a "rats nest" of wires on the ride's control panel, the inquest heard.

The inquest will adjourn today before resuming in November.



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