Four people were killed on Tuesday at Australia’s most iconic fun park, Dreamworld.
The Gold Coast attraction was closed as police began investigations in to what caused the tragedy.
It is understood the four victims were all adults, two men and two women in their 30s and 40s. There are some reports that all four were from the same family.
The horrific accident occured at about 2:20pm local time on one of the amusement park’s mainstay rides, Thunder River Rapids (Dreamworld promotional picture of the ride, above).
It is understood that the conveyor belt which carries the 6-seated passenger pontoons at the beginning and end of the ride malfunctioned, flipping the pontoon carrying the victims.
“One of the rides had sustained some sort of malfunction causing two people to be ejected from the ride,” Queensland Ambulance Service spokesman Gavin Fuller said, according to 9News.com.au.
“Another two people were caught inside the ride,” he added.
Dreamworld CEO Craig Davidson confirmed the four fatalities from the shocking incident and expressed condolences for the families of the victims.
“Dreamworld confirms that at approximately 2:20pm today, an incident occurred on the Thunder River Rapids Ride that resulted in the tragic deaths of four people,” he said.
“At this stage the park is closed and Dreamworld is working closely with police and emergency services and authorities to establish the facts around the incident.
“We are deeply shocked and saddened by this and our hearts and our thoughts go to the families involved and to their loved ones.”
Lia Capes, who was waiting to go on the ride, described to the ABC what she witnessed immediately following the accident.
“We saw [a] little girl and we believe it was her mum because it was just her and her little sister that was an infant,” she said.
“I was speaking to one of the guys and he said it was the raft or the boat thing in front of him, the whole thing flipped and everyone was screaming.”
Dreamworld is an icon of the Australian tourism industry. Many families will have memories of visiting the Queensland amusement park and enjoying the Thunder River Rapids ride, making the accident all the more shocking to the community.
Condolences came from as high up as Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
“I’m very saddened to learn of the tragic accident at Dreamworld earlier today,” he said.
“Theme parks are a place for family fun and happiness, not tragedy. This is a very, very, sad, tragic event.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives.
“This is a very sad day, and we trust there will be a thorough investigation into the causes of this accident over the days to follow.”