Four people have been killed after a river rapids ride malfunctioned at a popular theme park on Australia’s east coast.
Two men and two women died on the ride at Dreamworld, a park on Queensland state’s Gold Coast, Queensland police officer Tod Reid said.
The Thunder River Rapids ride whisks people in circular rafts along a fast-moving, man-made river.
A malfunction caused two people to be ejected from their raft, while two others were caught inside the ride, said Gavin Fuller, an officer with the Queensland Ambulance Service.
It has not been established whether the two victims who were caught in the ride were trapped underwater, or caught up in the machinery.
Park staff administered first aid to the victims, but their injuries proved fatal, Mr Fuller told reporters.
The victims were in their 30s and early 40s, he said.
Mr Reid said he was not aware of any previous problems with the ride. Police are interviewing witnesses and reviewing CCTV footage of the incident while crews worked to remove the bodies from the scene on Tuesday night.
He said: “It is a complex retrieval involving heavy equipment and that will take several hours.”
Dreamworld CEO Craig Davidson said the park is working with police to try to determine what went wrong.
He told reporters: “We are deeply shocked and saddened by this, and our hearts and our thoughts go out to the families involved and to their loved ones.”
The park was closed following the accident and is expected to remain closed on Wednesday.
Witness Lia Capes, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp that she was just about to go on the ride when she saw people running out, crying.
She said: “I was speaking to one of the guys and he said it was the raft or the boat thing in front of him, the whole thing flipped and everyone was screaming.”
Thunder River is considered one of Dreamworld’s tamer, family-friendly rides, and is open to children as young as two.
The park, which has been open since 1981, also features several roller coasters and the free-fall ride The Giant Drop, where passengers plunge from a height of nearly 400ft.
In April, the park’s Rocky Hollow Log Ride was temporarily shut down after a man fell from the ride.
Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said there would be a thorough investigation into the cause of Tuesday’s accident.
“Theme parks are a place for family fun and happiness, not tragedy,” he said.