Dreamworld victims' family 'furious' with Dreamworld bosses' claims of reaching out

By Liz Burke of news.com.au

The family of three of the Dreamworld ride tragedy's four victims is "furious" at suggestions from the theme park's parent company that it has reached out and offered them assistance as they grieve.

Ardent Leisure CEO Deborah Thomas announced during an at-times hostile press conference the company had reached out to the family of Kate Goodchild, her brother Luke Dorsett and his partner Roozi Araghi, following their tragic deaths at the company's premier Gold Coast asset on Tuesday.

"We've reached out to the families," she told media in Sydney following the company' annual general meeting.

"We've finally made contact with the Dorsett family and we are talking with them today about how we may assist."

Thomas said Ardent staff has approached the family through a police liaison officer.

"We have offered them every assistance that we can and what they require during this difficult time," she said.

"I hope I get a chance to talk to them ... I will give my sympathies and condolences."

But Thomas's words of condolence were thrown back in her face minutes later when a journalist informed her the Dorsett family had rejected her suggestions as they viewed a live broadcast of the heated discussion.

Dreamworld CEO Deborah Thomas told a press conference staff are shattered by the events. Photo / Sky News
Dreamworld CEO Deborah Thomas told a press conference staff are shattered by the events. Photo / Sky News

"The Dorsett family are actually watching this press conference at the moment, and they are apparently furious at suggestions that support has been offered to them," Ten News reporter Melinda Nucifora informed the board.

"They say that they've had no direct contact whatsoever. No one's even reached out to them."

The reporter said Kim Dorsett, Luke and Kate's mother, had sent through a mobile phone number asking if somebody from Ardent could please call her.

Thomas was defensive and said her company had made attempts to get in touch.

"We didn't call the Dorsett family directly because we didn't know how to contact them, so we have been to the police liaison officer," she said.

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"I will not call her now in front of the media, but I am very happy to call her very soon after this meeting."

Thomas said yesterday was "all about trying to get hold of the families so we could offer assistance".

"We have it back from the police that they have made contact with them, and my understanding was that our people would be with them today," she said, and requested the phone number be passed on to her.

Thomas then struggled to contain her emotions as she made a personal apology to the family on camera.

"I was just going to say did you say that the Dorsett family were watching? I would like to say to Dorsett, my sincere sympathies for what you are going through and on behalf of staff and management our hearts and thoughts and prayers are with you.

"I will be calling you to see what assistance we can offer."

The press conference followed the property and entertainment company's unfortunately scheduled annual general meeting, in which Thomas made her first public comments about the Dreamworld disaster, which occurred less than 48 hours ago.

Kate Goodchild. Photo / Supplied
Kate Goodchild. Photo / Supplied
Luke Dorsett. Photo / Supplied
Luke Dorsett. Photo / Supplied
Cindy Low. Photo / Supplied
Cindy Low. Photo / Supplied
Roozi Araghi. Photo / Supplied
Roozi Araghi. Photo / Supplied

"It is under extremely sad circumstances that we gather here in Sydney for the AGM two days after the tragic deaths of four people at Dreamworld," she said.

"I would like to express our deepest and most heartfelt condolence to the family and friends of the people killed in this tragedy. Our thoughts are with them and particularly with their children."

As the meeting's took its course, Thomas, was awarded bonuses totalling nearly $850,000.

Video

When challenged over whether she would turn down the bonus, Thomas responded angrily saying it was "not the time to discuss" financial matters.

"I don't think it's appropriate under the circumstances. Four people died very recently and we are all shattered by this. This is not something that we all deal with very easily," she said.

Thomas said she sympathised with the families of those affected, and wanted to assist them personally.

Video

"I am a mother, I have a family. I take my family to Dreamworld. This could have been my family and I completely sympathetic to what they must be going through," she said.

"I hope that I will be able to help them. And if I can't help them personally, we will make sure we have everything in place to assist them through this tragedy. And that includes counsellors and also financial assistance with the immediate need of the family."

Following the press conference, Thomas copied down the mobile number from the reporter's mobile phone screen.


Ardent executives were also forced to defend the company's decision to open its top earning theme park so soon after the fatal incident.

Dreamworld will open for a "memorial day", with entry proceeds going to the Australian Red Cross on Friday, and will resume regular operation on Saturday.

Outgoing chairman Neil Balnaves said the opening time had been a subject with a lot of deliberation over the last 24 hours, but said it has made the right decision.

"After discussion with counsellors and a lot to do with the issues of people grieving, the decision was taken to turn tomorrow into a fundraising event to support the Red Cross and all the admission, the fees, will be donated to them," he said.

"The advice we have from psychologists and a lot of people working with the staff, it is better that people get back to work and basically get together with their comrades and talk and deal with the issue rather than that they are concerned about their jobs and sitting at home in isolation, and we're just adding to their issues.

"At some point the park will open, and it's driven with the utmost respect for the families and the deaths, and it will open again on Saturday to basically repair the damage with a lot of our people as well. We can't return the four lives."

The Thunder River Rapids Ride, on which the four victims lost their lives on Tuesday will remain closed at least until the conclusion of the coronial inquiry, Balneves said.

The Thunder River Rapids Ride at Dreamworld Gold Coast. Photo / Supplied
The Thunder River Rapids Ride at Dreamworld Gold Coast. Photo / Supplied

- news.com.au

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