Flowers at a memorial out the front of Dreamworld in November 2016. Picture: Chris Hyde
Flowers at a memorial out the front of Dreamworld in November 2016. Picture: Chris Hyde

Dreamworld lawyers rage over backflip

A SENIOR barrister has apologised for accusing a law firm of opportunism and compromising witness evidence at a coronial inquest into the deaths of four people at Dreamworld.

Ken Fleming QC is assisting Coroner James MacDougall in an investigation into the deaths of the four tourists on a ride in October 2016.

He had accused Shine Lawyers of opportunism after the firm announced this week that some former Dreamworld workers, who are also inquest witnesses, will sue the Gold Coast park for psychological trauma caused by what they saw that day.

Mr Fleming told the ABC he was disappointed that Shine announced the legal case while the inquest was still running.

"Obviously they (Shine Lawyers) are using the opportunity build their own profile," he said.

"I was very disappointed because it compromises their evidence. It makes it look as though they're giving evidence at the inquest for the purposes of the common law procedure and that, of course, just isn't the case."

However, outside the inquest on Thursday, Mr Fleming apologised for his remarks and for any imputation that might have arisen from his claim that Shine Lawyers had compromised witness evidence.

While backtracking on his earlier comments, Mr Fleming told reporters: "In so far as there might be any imputation against Shine Lawyers that they have acted inappropriately or unprofessionally I unreservedly withdraw those and unreservedly apologise for those."

 

The Thunder River Rapids ride, before it was permanently closed. Picture: Mike Batterham
The Thunder River Rapids ride, before it was permanently closed. Picture: Mike Batterham

But he insisted it would have been better if the firm had waited until the inquest was over before announcing the ex-workers intended to sue for the harm they suffered as first responders to the deaths.

"It's entirely inappropriate to confuse this procedure with a common law procedure," Mr Fleming said.

In a statement, Shine Lawyers defended its decision to announce the legal action.

"There were several casualties on the day, including our clients, who deserve a voice and recognition of their continuous grief," Shine said.

"Every person who suffers injury in the workplace is entitled to representation and support of the law."

Four former Dreamworld workers are suing the Gold Coast theme park, two years after they witnessed the entire horror of four people dying on the Thunder River Rapids ride.

Three of the four workers will give evidence at the inquest into the October 2016 incident.

Represented by Shine Lawyers, the four first responders say they are still psychologically damaged from trying to help the four pinned Australians.

In a statement to news.com.au, Shine Lawyers' solicitor Tina Ibraheem said the four first responders' "level of trauma is beyond anything I have ever seen".

Shine Lawyers is representing safety officers Shane Green, John Clark and Rebecca Ramsey and engineer Paul Burke who have all left Dreamworld and are all involved in ongoing counselling.

The three safety officers were part of Dreamworld's medical team and were called as soon as the ride flipped, crushing the four victims between the wooden conveyor belt and the raft.

"Nobody should ever have to see what they were confronted with when they entered that trench," Ms Ibraheem said.

"The victims' bodies were so badly disfigured from crush and compression injuries that these first aid officers were completely helpless, there was nothing they could do.

"The nation was overcome with grief and everybody tried to piece together in their minds what happened to those innocent people as they were dragged into that machinery.

"Our clients, however, saw exactly what happened to the four bodies and they have to live with those images for the rest of their lives."

The inquest into the deaths of Cindy Low, Kate Goodchild, her brother Luke Dorsett and his partner Roozi Araghi will continue today, two years after they died following a malfunction on the Thunder River Rapids.

 

Roozi Araghi, Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett and Cindy Low. Picture: Supplied
Roozi Araghi, Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett and Cindy Low. Picture: Supplied

 

Dreamworld first aid officer Ben Hicks testified yesterday. He is not being represented by Shine. Picture: Dave Hunt
Dreamworld first aid officer Ben Hicks testified yesterday. He is not being represented by Shine. Picture: Dave Hunt

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