Australian park owner to plead guilty after 4 die on ride

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — The company that owns an Australian theme park where four people died on a river rapids ride will plead guilty to charges stemming from the 2016 tragedy, a lawyer said on Wednesday.

Two men and two women died in Dreamworld park on Queensland state’s Gold Coast when their raft flipped on the Thunder River Rapids ride.

Ardent Leisure Group has been charged under workplace safety laws with failing to comply with its health and safety duty and exposing individuals to a risk of serious injury or death.

But Dreamworld executives responsible for the park’s safety avoided individual prosecution.

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Ardent’s lawyer Bruce Hodgkinson told a Gold Coast court on Wednesday that the Sydney-based company, which also owns assets in the United States and New Zealand, will plead guilty to all three charges. Each charge carried a potential maximum fine of 1.5 million Australian dollars ($1.1 million).

A sentencing hearing will begin on Sept. 28.

A coroner’s report that was referred to prosecutors cited a “systemic failure” in safety at Dreamworld with “frighteningly unsophisticated” procedures and a failure to provide the training and supervision necessary to protect people from risk. It said no thorough engineering risk assessment had been done on the Thunder River Rapids ride in the 30 years it was open to the public.

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