‘I live with that moment forever’: mother’s heartbreak after losing two children in Dreamworld tragedy

Kim Dorsett lost not one, but two of her adored children at Dreamworld in a sudden and senseless tragedy.

On 25 October 2016, Kim’s daughter, 32-year-old Kate Goodchild, Kim’s son, 35-year-old Luke Dorsett, his partner Roozi Araghi, age 38, and New Zealand mother Cindy Low were thrown from their upturned raft into the water.

All of them died in a matter of seconds, crushed by the ride’s machinery.

It was a tragedy that shook the nation to its core. For hundreds of thousands of Australians, a visit to Dreamworld was the best part of the family holiday to the Gold Coast.  And the Thunder River Rapids ride was a family favourite – seemingly just a harmless bit of fun.

Who or what is to blame is yet to be decided, but the questions remain – could Dreamworld’s parent company, Ardent Leisure, have stopped this tragedy from happening? And did they do enough after the accident to try to repair the seemingly irreparable damage to three shattered families?

Kim doesn’t believe so. “I don’t think they handled it very well at all,” she tells Sunday Night’s Alex Cullen. “If they had to do it again, you would hope they’d do it differently.”

Kim and her family were on the Gold Coast for a wedding – and decided to make a holiday out of it. They had already been to Dreamworld twice on their trip, and were thinking about going again.

But in the days before the accident, something felt wrong to Kim – a sense of foreboding she couldn’t quite put her finger on.

“I felt really uneasy,” Kim reveals. “I remember waking up and just had an uneasy feeling, but never in my wildest dreams did I think something was going to happen to the kids or anybody. I knew just you know something wasn’t quite right.”

On that fateful Tuesday, the family was still deciding whether to return to Dreamworld or somewhere else.

“They tossed up whether to go there or to go to Sea World,” Kim recalls. “I don’t know who said what, but someone just said, ‘We are just going to Dreamworld,’ so… toss of a coin.”

The Dorsett clan set off for Dreamworld – Kim’s daughter Kate and her partner, Dave Turner, and their children, 12-year-old Ebony and baby Evie. With them were Kim’s son Luke and his partner Roozi. Kim decided not to go, deciding to go shopping instead.

Kim remembers that something felt not quite right. “They all took that time to say goodbye that morning. I don’t know why, but Roozi got out of the car and just gave me a hug and said, ‘Have a good day, we will see you later.’ He’s never done that before. Kate blew me a kiss, and Ebony blew me a kiss.”

“I guess that’s the tough thing – they all got into the car and left, and then three of them just never came back… and I live with that moment forever.”

When the family arrives they discover their favourite ride, the Thunder Rapids River Ride, is out of action. A pump has broken down – for the second time that day – and engineers are scrambling to fix it.

Around 2pm, and Luke, Roozi and Kate see that the Thunder River Rapids Ride is back up and running. They join the queue – as fate would have it, behind another family who are waiting for someone else to join them, and let the Dorsett family take their place, into the next raft.

Minutes later, the pump breaks down for the third time that day – and the water level in the river begins to drop.

The raft in front is stuck on the conveyor belt, with almost a minute before the Dorsett’s raft is set to arrive. There’s an emergency button that can stop this ride in just two seconds, but that button is never pushed.

As their raft is carried back to the top of the ride, just metres from where they would get off, it collides with the raft in front and flips backwards.

Kate, Luke, Roozi, Cindy Low, her son Kieran, and Kate’s daughter Ebony are hurled from their seats into the water, and all four adults are caught in the grinding wooden sleepers and steel chains below.

Kate, Luke and Roozi are dead, along with Cindy Low. The two children, Kieran and Ebony, have somehow survived. But Ebony’s life has not been spared by a miracle, but by an extraordinary act of heroism. In his last moments, Luke saves the life of his adored young niece.

“I think he realised what was happening and he saw Ebony falling, and he grabbed her steadied her and then pushed her off the side,” Kim says. “[He] saved his niece. [The] first thing he thought about was saving her, looking after her, making sure she was okay.  It was over and done with so quickly. It just went up and that was it.”

In the days that follow, there is an outpouring of public grief. The Dreamworld entrance becomes a carpet of flowers and candles, with hundreds writing messages of love and support on a makeshift memorial in the form of a large toy soldier.

But just 48 hours after the accident, Dreamworld’s parent company, Ardent Leisure, held its annual general meeting – and compounded the tragedy for the grieving families.

Chief executive Deborah Thomas – a well-known and respected former woman’s magazine editor – was clearly shaken by the tragedy. But she’d also just been awarded a $167,000 cash bonus.

Thomas quickly promised to donate the money to charity – but for Kim Dorsett watching on television, it just got worse.

During the meeting, Thomas claimed: “We’ve reached out to the families, we’ve finally made contact with the Dorsett family, and we are talking with them today about how we may assist. We are doing this through the police liaison office.”

Kim denies this happened. “She had said that she’d spoken to the family members. I think I did get a bit annoyed at that, because I knew that wasn’t true.”

When Thomas did finally get in touch with Kim, she was very apologetic. “She cried a lot,” Kim recalls. “I think that Deborah was put in a pretty awkward situation, being a frontman to have to deal with this when she was in Sydney in her office when this happened.”

When the inquest into the Dreamworld tragedy began earlier this year, Kim Dorsett attended every day. She felt she owed it to her children to understand what happened – even if it meant sitting through shocking CCTV images of the accident.

Something Kim still struggles with is the time it took for this tragedy to unfold, and how it could’ve been stopped.

“The big thing that sticks in my mind is that if anyone were to push that button to stop the conveyer belt – all they had to do was to push that button – my kids would still be here, and Cindy Low would still be here if that ride was stopped when it should.”

Witnesses would later say it took just seven seconds between the raft flipping and the senseless deaths of four innocent people.

Kim thinks about that handful of seconds constantly. “That’s all it took from when the raft went up until it was all over, seven seconds. Katy was first out and Luke was last out, and I can’t imagine what those seven seconds were like for him because he would have seen everything that happened and he must have been terrified, just terrified.  I just hope that he realised that he’d saved Ebony and she got off that ride, and she was okay. Just seven seconds, and they could have stopped that conveyor belt in two.”

Now, Kim visits her children every week at a Canberra cemetery.

“I don’t find it sad,” she explains. “I guess it’s my way of still looking after my children, come and look after their grave so that you still feel like you have that responsibility for them, because I miss being a mum, very much.”

Reporter: Alex Cullen

Producer: Stephen Rice

 

The Dorsett family are great supporters of Staffy Rescue organisations that save and try to re-home abandoned Staffordshire bull terriers.  If you would like to make a donation, please contact either:

www.staffyrescue.org.au or www.qldstaffyandamstaffrescue.org.au.