How Dreamworld tragedy could cost Ardent $20m
DREAMWORLD has paid out millions of dollars in compensation claims over the Thunder River Rapids tragedy as the coronial inquest drags in to a third year.
While there is still no scheduled date for Coroner James McDougall to deliver his findings, The Courier-Mail can reveal that the insurers of Dreamworld and parent company Ardent Leisure have already paid out more than $5 million in over 20 compensation law suits by those caught up in the 2016 tragedy which claimed the lives of Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett, Roozi Araghi and Cindy Low.
The payouts include former Dreamworld staffers, in-park first responders, horrified witnesses and relatives of the victims.
A family of four who were on the raft behind the ill-fated craft that flipped have also settled compensation claims interstate.
It is understood several other compensation actions are nearing completion, while still more are standing by for the long-awaited findings of the coronial investigation.
Legal insiders close to the case have told The Courier-Mail the final figure for compensation payouts could top $20 million, particularly if the coroner's findings are as scathing as expected.
The inquest ran from June to December in 2018, but a series of unfortunate occurrences have caused considerable delays to the tabling of recommendations from the coroner's office.
A key staffer was on extended sick leave while a clerical error later accidentally omitted legal representatives from important correspondence.
A spokesman for Ardent Leisure confirmed multiple compensation claims had been settled, but said they were bound by confidentiality provisions.
"The majority of families and other first responders impacted by the tragedy have made civil claims and been compensated through private agreed settlements," he said.
"Some other claims are in progress or have not yet commenced. Ardent Leisure will respectfully address those claims when they are made.
"Given the confidential nature of these arrangements Ardent Leisure cannot make any further comment."
Shine Lawyers has handled several claims and senior Shine lawyer Peter Gibson said the tragedy had left a lasting impact on many lives.
"Some of our clients' matters have settled which is certainly a step in the right direction for them as they try to move on from that harrowing day," he said.
"Many of our clients were so damaged from what they witnessed that they needed to change occupations.
"The compensation we've been able to secure will allow them to retrain in another profession and continue to receive the ongoing psychological support they need.
"The reality is though that no amount of money will wipe away those tragic scenes that are brunt into their memories. Their lives have been changed forever.
"We really feel for the families of the deceased. It's been three years and they are still waiting for answers. That must be extremely hard for them to process."
The findings of the inquest are now expected to be released in the coming months.
The coroner does not impose recommendations for criminal prosecutions, but could instead refer the case back to the Director of Public Prosecutions for further consideration.
In the wake of the disaster, the Queensland government introduced tough new industrial manslaughter legislation, but the laws cannot be applied to the Thunder River Rapids case.