Dreamworld accident: CEO defends Ardent Leisure executives

Shares in Ardent Leisure bounced higher yesterday in something of a relief rally, despite shareholders being told the financial impact of the Dreamworld tragedy would be "significant" and confusion about the theme park's re-opening.

In a statement, the company, which had planned a memorial function at the theme park on Friday before reopening on Saturday, said it was postponing both events because of a police investigation, and would give an update on reopening on Monday.

"We're determined to get to the bottom of what went wrong and this investigation will leave no stone unturned in order to avoid a repeat of these tragic events", she said. "I don't think it's appropriate under the circumstances", she said.

The attraction, in Gold Coast, about 45 minutes from Brisbane, is the largest theme park in Australia and attracts around 1.8 million visitors each year.

"A disaster like this would not require a cut and run philosophy", Mr Balnaves said at a press conference after the company's annual general meeting in Sydney on Thursday.

The precinct around the Thunder River Rapids ride where the accident occurred will remain closed.

Initial investigations show that two of them were crushed underneath a raft which flipped over, while the two others were taken underwater, and trapped in the ride's conveyor belt.

Under-fire Ardent Leisure chief executive Deborah Thomas has apologised to families of victims from this week's fatal accident at Dreamworld.

"We've reached out to many people involved in the tragedy and spoken to them", she said. Ms Thomas claims she didn't know how to communicate with the families.

Shares have dropped by a total of 67 cents since the accident, wiping more than $310 million from the company's market capitalisation, to nearly $940 million.

Ms Grace said the AWU's response was right.

In its statement, Ardent Leisure Group said: "Dreamworld is working as quickly as possible to establish the facts around the incident and is working closely with the police, emergency services and authorities to do this".

Ardent chairman Neil Balnaves had earlier advised reporters the decision to re-open was the "subject of a lot of deliberation" over the past 24 hours.

The theme park is now under increasing pressure after it was revealed Queensland safety inspector Shaun Langdon declared 13 of Dreamworld's rides "not fit for service" after inspecting ride air compressors in 2012.

Research analyst Bruce McLeary says winning back public confidence and getting the crowds back into the theme park will be a challenge.

  • Leroy Wright