- Publish Date
- Thursday, 27 October 2016, 7:30AM
A former Dreamworld employee who worked on the ride where four people were killed said he believed it had a "potentially fatal flaw."
Jon Armstrong worked as a ride operator on Thunder River Rapids on a casual basis for around six months in 1987, shortly after it was built.
The 51-year-old from southern Queensland said he and his colleagues had a "similar problem" one day, when a raft that was still attached to its rope mooring flipped on the conveyor belt.
"I was on 'start-up' duties for the ride, which involved walking the river bed before the pump started, check the raft inflation pressure and ensuring all rafts were untied," he told news.com.au.
"I was unaware this particular morning that one raft had two mooring lines attached by the overnight maintenance crew, the second rope being hidden on the far side of the raft and submerged.
"When the ride started, this raft stuck and caused three other rafts to flip on the conveyor and four more to 'mount' the flipped rafts.
"It's lucky there was no one on board because if there had been, their body parts would have been pushed under the water ... and at that part, the water's deep.
"Luckily we had not allowed guests in to ride yet but those of us present at the time all agreed that this was a potentially fatal flaw."
After the incident there was a formal investigation, Armstrong added, and safety procedures were tightened up. The park brought in more thorough checks, the rafts were untied, cameras were installed and the shutdown switch was moved into the control room.
Now most of the ride is automated, but Armstrong - who now works in IT - says he believes there should be an automatic shutdown if a raft didn't move up the conveyor belt.
He said that at the time a raft with "small people" on it would flip at the top of the conveyor belt three or four times a day, sending children flying on to a raft behind.
It would appear that issue was resolved some time ago.
Armstrong also said the rafts were heavy and "if one of the rafts got pushed around upside down, they wouldn't know how to rescue themselves, they'd panic."
The former ride operator added: "When you walk around the river course, there are a lot of obstacles. If you're whitewater rafting in the real world you have to wear a crash helmet.
"I doubt I'd go on that ride until they changed the format. It needs a redesign."
In 2007, he was employed by a heavy engineering company commissioned to repair weld the Giant Drop and Tower of Terror rides.
"The lead welder/engineer came back at the end of the day and told me he had serious doubts regarding the safety of those two rides as the fatigue damage his team repaired that day was extensive and indeed needed repeating a short time later."