A South Coast dad who tried in vain to revive Canberra woman Kate Goodchild when a Thunder River Rapids Ride raft flipped at Dreamworld on Queensland’s Gold Coast on 25 October 2016 has been awarded a bravery medal for his efforts.
Steven Apthorp of Mollymook was on the ride with his then-wife Bree and their two young sons when the raft behind them flipped, killing 32-year-old Kate, along with her brother Luke Dorsett, 35, and Luke’s partner Roozbeh Araghi, 38, both also from Canberra. Cindy Low, 42, from the NSW Central Coast was also killed in the accident.
Steven says he managed to help his wife and children, aged four and 18 months at the time, off the ride, along with two other passengers in their raft, before going to the aid of the victims.
He climbed off the raft and dragged Kate’s daughter Ebony, 12, and Cindy’s son Keiran, 10, to safety before attempting to save Kate. Police said it was a miracle that the two children survived Australia’s worst theme park tragedy.
“I got the kids that were flung off the ride and one of the girls was screaming about her mum, so I went in to try and help. I thought she was the only person in there,” Steven recalls.
He located Kate in chest-deep water in the ride trough and commenced CPR and was joined by John Clark, a first-aid officer, from Runaway Bay, NSW.
The pair were able to move Kate onto a ramp where they continued CPR until emergency services arrived, but unfortunately she and three others were declared deceased at the scene.
Steven, now aged 46, said when he was notified 12 months ago that he was to receive a Bronze Bravery Medal from The Royal Humane Society of Australasia, he wasn’t sure he deserved it.
“I just did what I had to do at the time,” he said.
He was one of 10 people recognised for risking their own lives in saving or attempting to save the lives of others by Brisbane City Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner at a ceremony in Brisbane City Hall on Friday 19 May.
Steven said, while he appreciated the award, it dragged up memories that have haunted him for almost seven years and that have contributed to a raft of mental health conditions, including PTSD, as well as the breakdown of his marriage.
“As soon as I found out I was getting the medal I started to feel stressed and my blood pressure went up again,” he said.
“I started reliving the event and went to see my doctor. The mind’s a funny thing – it’s hard to explain.
“I was pretty stressed about going to the medal presentation. I didn’t need the attention, it wasn’t about me.”
The former chef and now concreter says his two sons, family and friends have helped get him through the past six and a half years.
“I spend most of my time with the boys and taking them to footy. They get me through each day,” he said.
Steven met a mate in Brisbane who attended the medal ceremony, which he said, thankfully, was “pretty quiet” with no fanfare.
“I didn’t want to take the kids and drag it all up with them again, so I met a mate and he came with me,” he said.
“I was proud to shake the mayor’s hand. They were all really good and helped me through it,” he added.
Steven and his family were visiting the Gold Coast for the V8 Supercar races and were due to head back home to Ulladulla the day after the Dreamworld accident.
About 2 pm on 25 October 2016, a raft on the Thunder River Rapids Ride travelled through the ride without incident until it approached the passenger unload area, where a water pump failed and it collided with a second raft causing it to invert and get caught between the conveyor and the steel railings.
Steven is still amazed that his family members were not injured or killed when the raft behind hit the back of theirs.
“We started lifting up as well. Our raft was vertical and we could have flipped as well,” he said.
“I had an idea what was happening and even yelled out to the operator that was there to hit the emergency stop button, but she just froze. It all happened so fast.”
While he doesn’t consider himself a hero, Steven saved a few lives in his younger days while surfing on the South Coast.
“Back in my younger days in the surf I have helped kids in trouble. I helped a boy at Mollymook Beach and pulled two girls out of a rip at Narrawallee,” he said.
Steven and John were nominated for the bravery award by Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll.
Kate resided with her partner of 15 years, David Turner, and their two children, Ebony and Evie in Ngunnawal and worked for the Department of Human Services.
Her older brother Luke resided with his partner of 10 years, Roozbeh, and also worked for the Department of Human Services.
A father of two, Roozbeh was born in Iran and worked for the Australian Bureau of Statistics. He was known among his friends and colleagues as a “tireless defender of the underprivileged”.
Cindy was born in Whakatane, New Zealand and relocated to Sydney with her partner Mathew in 2001 before moving to East Gosford. They had two children, Keiran and Isla.
Following the tragedy, the Thunder River Rapids Ride was demolished.