A carnival ride which hurled a six-year-old Victorian boy to his death was allowed to reopen before the child’s life support machine was turned off, the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court has heard.
- The Cha Cha ride was shut down for two days after the boy was fatally injured and seat belts were installed before it was reopened
- It operated for several months until November 2017 when WorkSafe Victoria issued it with an improvement notice, which caused the ride to be dismantled and fitted with longer lap bars
- The court heard the owners, Wittingslow Amusements, examined the ride three months before the boy died but did not find any defects
The ride continues to be in circulation, with lawyers indicating it will be used again in the future.
Eugene Mahauariki died at the Royal Children’s Hospital from head injuries four days after falling from the Cha Cha ride at the Rye foreshore on Easter Monday in 2017.
His father, Stacey Mahauariki, worked at the carnival and Eugene was taking the last ride of the day with another six-year-old.
Wittingslow Amusements was charged by WorkSafe Victoria over the boy’s death and today appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court.
After the fatal incident, the ride was shut down for just two days before its owner, Wittingslow Amusements, was allowed to reopen it.
Seatbelts were fitted to the ride after the incident.
The Cha Cha ride then operated for several months until November 2017, before Victoria’s workplace safety watchdog issued the operator with an improvement notice, which caused the ride to be dismantled and fitted with longer lap bars.
“The relevant authority didn’t ban the ride and allowed the ride to continue whilst a notice of improvement was issued,” Magistrate Ross Maxted told the court.
Barrister Stephen Russell, representing the carnival company, conceded this was the case.
“It’s not actually being used at the moment,” he said. “It will be used in the future.”
WorkSafe barrister Andrew Palmer QC said the prosecution’s case did not rely on the proposition that the ride breached national standards.
“Our case is that the design of the restraints is flawed because they permitted, in our case, a rider, Mr Mahauariki, to slip out and be ejected from the ride and that it was reasonably practicable to have reduced that risk by firstly having a secondary restraint system,” he said.
“We say it was reasonably practical to further reduce the risk by not operating the ride, modify the restraint system, to have a lap bar and a seatbelt.”
The court heard that Wittingslow Amusements had an engineer examine the ride in December 2016 but no defects were identified.
In Victoria, there is no statutory requirement for rides to be inspected, the court heard. Instead, it is just a practice undertaken by WorkSafe.
The Cha Cha ride was built in 1961 and has been owned by iterations of Wittingslow Amusements since that time.
It has three arms radiating from a central column, and each arm has four cars. It can seat 44 people.
The hearing continues.