'This could have been my family'Save
Ardent Leisure chief executive Deborah Thomas has warned the fatal accident at Dreamworld theme park will have a significant impact on the company's earnings this year.
At a press conference following the company's annual general meeting, Thomas broke her silence on the tragedy.
"The priority here is with the victims and our thoughts and prayers are with them," she said.
"Our staff are shattered by the events."
"I am a mother, I have a family, I take my family to Dreamworld, this could have been my family"
She refused to say whether she had received a touted bonus for the previous year's performance arguing it was inappropriate to discuss given the tragedy.
"Four people died very recently and we are very shattered," she said.
"Any bonus Ms Thomas may receive relates to the prior year" Ardent chairman Neil Balnaves said and would not comment further.
When asked if it was too soon to open the park, Balnaves said it had been a subject of much deliberation.
"The advice we have had is that it is better that people get back to work and get back with their comrades and talk about this issue rather than sitting at home in isolation and worrying about their jobs.
Craig Davidson, Ardent's CEO of theme parks added he had "Spoken extensively to our team, some of who were involved in the incident. The view is we would all be better if we move forward."
Despite this, Balnaves said the company were not expecting a rush back to the park from the public.
When asked about the safety of the rides, Balnaves remarked the park uses world-class safety experts.
"That ride has annual tear-down and rebuild annual checks ... [the latest] completed just over four weeks ago. That confounds the tragedy even more for us.
"The park does not take safety casually. We use the world's best experts.
"We are fully aware of the law. We have taken every step to ensure we comply with every part of it," he said in regards to the park's safety.
When asked about the park's future, Balnaves said Dreamworld was a key component of the company.
Earlier, Thomas told the general meeting the business will suffer due to high cost and low return in the wake of the tragedy.
"Revenue lost as a result of this tragic event will have a significant impact on EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) for the remainder of the year, due to the high level of fixed costs required to operate the business," she said.
So far in the 2016/17 financial year, Ardent's Gold Coast theme parks - Dreamworld and neighbouring WhiteWater World - have already made about 34 per cent of the total revenue recorded by the parks last financial year, Ms Thomas said.
"We will provide regular updates to the market with our trading figures during the next eight months," she said.
Ardent Leisure plans to re-open Dreamworld for normal business on Saturday before an investigation into the deaths of four people on the Thunder River Rapids ride is completed.
Four people were killed in an accident on the park's white water rafting ride on Tuesday afternoon.
Chairman Neil Balnaves told Ardent's annual general meeting on Thursday that the park will re-open on Saturday and reassured shareholders that Dreamworld's safety culture is strong.
"We plan to re-open the theme park as normal on Saturday. However, the Thunder River Rapids Ride will be closed until the conclusion of the coronial inquiry," he said.
"Dreamworld has a strong safety culture and this is of paramount importance to the board."
Ardent shares have dropped sharply after the tragedy, wiped more than A$300 million from the company's market value.
On Thursday shares rose 11 cents - a 5.5 per cent gain, to A$2.11 in morning trade.
Ms Thomas said there was little she can say about the tragedy, which is subject to a coronial investigation, except that Ardent is working closely with authorities to establish exactly how the accident occurred.
"Everyone at Ardent Leisure and Dreamworld are deeply shocked and saddened by this tragedy," Ms Thomas said.
"Our immediate concern remains with the families of the victims and how we can assist them through this difficult time - to provide counselling to affected guests and staff.
"I understand the intense interest in this catastrophic event and appreciate there are many questions to be answered. But I ask for your patience as we work with those authorities to first establish the facts."
- With AAP