Former Kiwi and Dreamworld worker defends jokes about Thunder River Rapids deaths

By Rohan Smith

A theme park worker has defended jokes he made about the deaths of four people at Dreamworld. He says he makes similar jokes all the time.

Fat people, black people and religion are his favourite topics - and tragedies, including September 11, are fair game.

Benn Rattray, a former New Zealander who is a contractor at the Gold Coast theme park, posted on Facebook on Tuesday, hours after Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett, Roozi Araghi and Cindy Low died on the Thunder River Rapids ride.

"Just heading back to Dreamworld to tighten up the conveyor belt," he wrote. "Was supposed to do it after smoko but forgot."

He followed that with a post that read: "On a positive note, at least they died having fun."

The posts have since been deleted.

A spokeswoman for Dreamworld told news.com.au Rattray was paid to work at theme park. She said his comments were "abhorrent" and his employer, IPS Logistics, had been asked to deal with the situation "in a manner they deem most appropriate".

IPS Logistics has been approached for comment.

One of Benn Rattray's comments on Facebook.
One of Benn Rattray's comments on Facebook.

On Friday, Rattray told news.com.au his friends "understand my f***ed up sense of humour".

"Yes I made those comments to my friends, I make inappropriate jokes all the time," he said.

"(I make) 9/11 jokes to piss off the yanks, religious jokes to piss off the religious nuts and the comments about forgetting to tighten the conyeyor was my bulls**t response to my friends who had tagged me in a post.

"Why is everyone making a big fuss about it?"

He said he understands that some people would consider his humour insensitive but believes that's "the nature of adult humour".

"Fat people get offended by fat jokes, black people get offended by black jokes, religious nuts get offended by religious jokes. But on the same token, fat people also laugh about fat jokes, black people also laugh at black jokes and the occasional (religious person) can laugh at their fragile beliefs."

A police officer takes a look at a raft that is used by the Thunder River Rapid ride. Photo / Nigel Hallet, News Corp Australia
A police officer takes a look at a raft that is used by the Thunder River Rapid ride. Photo / Nigel Hallet, News Corp Australia

Asked if he wanted to apologise to the families of the victims, he told news.com.au: "Of course I would apologise to the families. I'll do it now since everyone takes my words as gospel."

On Thursday, a Tasmanian radio host was suspended for making a similarly crass joke about the Dreamworld deaths.

Anna Dare, who co-hosts the 7HOFM breakfast show, inappropriately referenced the theme park incident during a Secret Sound segment.

"I really don't like it," Dare said after hearing the sound that listeners had to guess in order to win $140, "it's violent sounding".

"It's not getting stuck in a conveyor belt at a theme park is it? Too soon?"

Dare's co-host sounded shocked by the comment and simply responded with a sigh. She tried to back-pedal but the damage was done.

"That's what it sounds like to me when I first heard it," Dare protested. "That's the first thing I thought of."

Dare was taken off air shortly after making the comment and has been suspended by 7HOFM and its parent company, Grant Broadcasters.

Police and the Coroner are still working to determine exactly what caused an inflatable raft to tip upside down on the rapids ride.

The raft, containing six people, was travelling along the conveyor belt to the drop-off point when it hit the raft in front and flipped over.

Two children on the raft - Ms Goodchild's daughter Ebony, 12, and Ms Low's son Kieran, 10 - screamed as they were thrown from the ride.

The four others did not survive.

The theme park remains closed to the public indefinitely, though staff will gather there on Friday for a memorial day.

Cards and flowers outside Dreamworld. Photo / Nigel Hallett, News Corp Australia
Cards and flowers outside Dreamworld. Photo / Nigel Hallett, News Corp Australia

It was originally planned that a memorial day would include the public, with entry costs to be donated to the Red Cross. But on Thursday afternoon Dreamworld released a statement cancelling the public event.

"Dreamworld has been advised by Queensland Police Services that we are unable to proceed with tomorrow's memorial service as planned," the park said in a statement.

"Obviously the integrity of the Coronial Investigation is of paramount importance and postponing the service will give QPS the time it needs to conduct this investigation.

"We will provide an update to the media on Monday with regard to the memorial service and reopening of the Park."

A Queensland police media spokesman told news.com.au police needed more time. He said they were "focusing on the investigation".

"It's going to take as long as it takes to finish processing the scene," he said. "It could be a few days or a couple of weeks."

- news.com.au

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