A ride which caused the death of an eight-year-old girl at the 2014 Royal Adelaide Show had been “plagued by complaints” during previous shows and fairs along the east coast, a coronial inquest has heard.
- Adelene Leong, 8, was killed when she was thrown from the Airmaxx 360
- A coronial inquest is examining her death, more than six years after it happened
- The inquest has heard the girl’s mother twice asked staff to better secure her daughter
Deputy State Coroner Ian White was also told that the Airmaxx 360 — which caused Adelene Leong to be “catapulted” through the air at 100 kilometres per hour — had escaped major scrutiny because it had a “misappropriated” design registration.
“This young girl would have now been 15 years of age — the court doesn’t wish any parent or guardian to suffer a like experience,” Mr White said while opening the inquest, which will run over four weeks.
Counsel assisting the coroner, Sally Giles, told the court that Adelene loved show rides and was on holiday from Malaysia when she attended the Royal Adelaide Show with her mother in 2014.
She said her mother twice asked Airmaxx 360 staff to better secure the belt for her daughter.
Ms Giles said that 90 seconds into the ride, Adelene “somehow” became unfastened from the safety belt and was left hanging by her left shoe as the ride bounced around.
She said the girl was then “ejected” from the ride and attempts to save her were unsuccessful.
The inquest will explore the history of the Airmaxx 360 — a carousel made of 12 arms with two seats each that bounce side-to-side and up-and-down — and what improvements need to be made to ensure the industry is safe.
Ms Giles said the ride was purchased by Jenny-Lee Sullivan and Clinton Watkins, of CJ and Sons Pty Ltd, from Spain, and imported into Australia in April 2013.
She said on arrival in Australia, engineers undertook the wrong type of inspection, but before it was given the green light to operate, it had “two more hurdles to jump” — getting design registration and plant registration.
The inquest heard that design registration ensures rides that operate in Australia do not have any design flaws.
“But it never went through the process of design registration,” Ms Giles said.
She said the design registration number that appeared on the Aixmaxx 360 was assigned to another ride — The Techno Jump — in 2004.
‘Plagued by complaints’
Ms Giles said the Airmaxx 360 owners said they were unaware the registration number, which is not publicly available, had been “misappropriated”.
She said engineer Brian Bradley, who has since died, was employed to register both rides and had possession of The Techno Jump’s number when he registered the Airmaxx 360.
“The Airmaxx 360 operated at a number of shows and rides, including the Royal Sydney Show, Royal Melbourne Show and Royal Brisbane Show … and the minimum height restriction varied from 120 to 130 centimetres,” she said.
The inquest heard 22 reports of minor injuries were made in three days at the Royal Melbourne Show, and WorkSafe Victoria lifted the minimum height restriction to 130 centimetres.
But Ms Giles said by the time the show travelled to Shepparton, in rural Victoria, the height limit had dropped back down to 120 centimetres.
She said the Royal Agriculture and Horticultural Society of South Australia, which runs the Royal Adelaide Show, was unaware of interstate complaints and ticked off the Airmaxx 360 for the 2014 show.
“The height limit was 120 centimetres — 20 centimetres less than what was suggested by the ride manufacturers. Adelene was 137 centimetres,” she said.
“The Airmaxx 360 had a number of design and condition flaws that should have been identified.
Through tears, Ms Sullivan read a statement ahead of giving evidence, telling Mr White that after six years, she continued to think of “Adelene and her mother every single day”.
“The ride was meant to bring joy to families, and we cannot begin to imagine the devastation that Adelene’s family has gone through,” she said.
“I’m so heartbroken by what happened, and I recognise this inquest is necessary so we can find out exactly how Adelene came out of the ride.”
She said she wanted the industry to be “as safe as possible” so history did not repeat itself.
The inquest continues.