SAFETY TANGLE: Aussie World’s Octopus ride has been removed since a carriage broke free in April last year.
SAFETY TANGLE: Aussie World’s Octopus ride has been removed since a carriage broke free in April last year.

Aussie World cops $25K fine after ride car breaks loose

AUSSIE World has been fined $25,000 after a carriage holding two teenagers broke free on the Octopus ride while it was running.

The theme park's operators Timevale Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in Maroochydore Magistrates Court on Thursday to failing to comply with health and safety duty.

Their strong safety record and the significant efforts made in the 15 months since the incident to improve the park was looked on favourably in sentencing.

Improvement efforts have included spending about $650,000 on new expert staff, ride upgrades and training procedures.

An 18-year-old woman suffered a cut to her forehead and an 18 year-old man was uninjured when their car-shaped carriage broke free about 3.20pm on April 7 last year.

It separated from the ride's arm about a minute into the ride and dropped to the ground, skidding about six metres before coming to a rest among other moving cars.

Both occupants were still secured inside.

Magistrate Annette Hennessy noted it was fortunate the carriage was quite close to the ground when it separated.

The court heard the ride had been purchased from Luna Park in New South Wales in 2002.

An agreed statement of facts tendered to the court said an Aussie World ride technician had carried out a maintenance check on the Octopus on the day of the crash and that nothing of note was reported.

Defence barrister Andrew O'Brien said the cause of the incident was not something addressed in the manufacturer's maintenance manual.

Mr O'Brien said the manual did not alert Timevale to the need to tighten concealed bolts on the ride's arm.

He said external engineers had also not alerted the company to the need to tighten the bolts.

A report from December last year by a senior Workplace Health and Safety mechanical advisor said it was likely that tapped threads could have been damaged as a result of insufficient tightening of the screws, which catastrophically failed after a hexagon screw broke.

The ride has since been removed and replaced with another.

Timevale's full cooperation with the Workplace Health and Safety investigation and early plea of guilty went in their favour.

The court also heard Timevale or its parent company, Presida Group, had not previously faced a prosecution of any kind, with Timevale having run Aussie World since 1995.

Timevale also already had considerable maintenance measures in place, including a dedicated eight-person team as well as daily, weekly, monthly and annual ride inspections.

Ms Hennessy noted the significant changes in ride maintenance but noted that was not to say the previous procedures were insufficient.

Timevale was fined $25,000 and ordered to pay a further $1079.40 in legal and administration costs.

Aussie World Chief Operating Officer Aaron Flanagan issued a statement after the sentence.

"Aussie World has proudly maintained an impeccable safety record over its 26 year history," it read.

"Whilst it is regrettable that this incident occurred some 15 months ago, it was acknowledged today that Aussie World had a comprehensive maintenance regime in place, undertook extensive engineering testing annually, conducted independent engineering inspections and maintained quality operator training systems. 

"It was also accepted that the fault that lead to the mechanical failure was not addressed in the manufacturers ride manual. 

"Over the last year we have invested significantly in people, systems and ride refurbishment programs which today was positively recognised by the authorities. 

"We are focused on developing a best in class theme park for the Sunshine Coast. 

"Two brand new rides have been purchased recently and we are currently in discussions to buy additional new rides to enhance the family entertainment experience."  

No conviction was recorded.

Improvements since the crash have included:

- Restructure to the technical services department to create a specific, dedicated rides engineering department

- Recruitment of an internationally experienced rides engineer manager

- Recruitment of a new rides engineer supervisor

- Refurbishment of four major rides

- Recruitment of a new independent engineer to undertake annual ride inspections

- Additional workplace health and safety training for managers and ride engineering staff

- New workplace health and safety management system with annual audits.

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