Witness accounts of this afternoon’s tragic Dreamworld accident paint a harrowing picture of what happened in the moments following the incident.
Police have now confirmed two men, 38 and 35, and two women, 32 and 42 died on Tuesday afternoon after the Thunder River Rapids ride malfunctioned.
“Two people [were] ejected … another two people were caught inside the ride,” Queensland Ambulance Service senior operations supervisor Gavin Fuller said during a press conference. The victims’ next of kin were reportedly still being notified tonight.
The Nine Network has reported the four adults were understood to be part of a family travelling together from Canberra. Meanwhile, the New Zealand Herald reports one of the deceased was a New Zealand woman who was on the ride with one of her children.
However, police are yet to confirm these, or any other identifying details.
Witnesses Claire Wooley and Lia Capes were waiting in line to go on the ride, just after 2pm today, when people started running out screaming.
"Before we knew it everyone was running out in hysterics," Capes told Australian Regional Media this evening, as reported by The Queensland Times.
In an additional interview with Seven News the two women recalled seeing a little girl "screaming for her mum".
"We believe she was on the ride, I don't believe she was in the same raft, but we do understand from what she said it was her family involved and she was screaming for her mother.
"We tried to comfort her from the side to distract her."
The account of a mother being trapped in the ride was also shared with Nine News by a male witness.
"There were kids on board screaming while their mum was like trapped under," he said.
Another female witness told Sky News she too saw a young girl crying near the ride who she believed to be the daughter of a woman trapped.
“We saw this daughter crying, we think it was her mum that [was] involved in the accident, but not 100 per cent sure,” she said.
“There was just police and lifeguards everywhere.
“I spoke to a guy and he said he looked behind and the whole thing flipped over ... Maybe one or two people didn’t get off or something and yeah, one of the daughters said it was her family.”
One witness told the Gold Coast Bulletin a female victim was left crushed by the malfunction.
“My sister and niece were on the ride, they are so traumatised, there is a woman hanging by her foot, crushed from the ride,” they said.
Another witness told Nine News she had been on the ride around 10 minutes before the accident occurred.
"It wasn't long before that we were on it, and then the park started getting shut down and we saw the helicopters," she said.
“They were walking out and they heard the mother, the father, and the uncle all got seriously injured, possibly even died, and the daughter was the only one that survived."
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk appeared on ABC’s 7:30 to address the incident.
“Understandably, what people have witnessed at Dreamworld has been absolutely horrific,” Palaszczuk said, adding that she had taken her family on the same ride earlier this year.
“I’m absolutely determined to ensure we get the necessary counselling to those who visited the park today but more importantly to those who witnessed it.”
Premier Palaszczuk said Police Commissioner Ian Stewart relayed how those involved were truly traumatised by the events
“A lot of paramedics that were on the scene, the police on the scene, the Dreamworld staff that were there and the witnesses are incredibly traumatised by what they have witnessed,” she said.
“Horrific scenes, we need to make sure everyone gets the counselling they need.”
In a statement, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said his thoughts and prayers were with the families of those who had lost their lives.
"We trust there will be a very thorough investigation into the causes of this incident in the days that follow," he added.
Police are continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding the fatalities, and have told media there is CCTV footage of the incident. According to ABC News, the state coronor has attended and examined the scene, and police expect to remain at the scene late into the night.
Dreamworld has announced it will be closed until further notice.
Featured image: video still via ARM/the Queensland Times