Fatal Vic carnival ride charges dropped

Eugene Mahauariki died after falling from the Cha Cha ride at the 2017 Rye Easter Carnival.
Eugene Mahauariki died after falling from the Cha Cha ride at the 2017 Rye Easter Carnival.

Charges have been dropped against an Easter show ride operator, after a six-year-old boy fell to his death in Victoria.

Eugene Mahauariki died in hospital four days after falling from the Cha Cha ride at the 2017 Rye Easter Carnival.

WorkSafe Victoria on Thursday told Melbourne Magistrates Court it was withdrawing charges against ride operator Wittingslow Carnivals.

The safety watchdog's barrister Andrew Palmer QC said the decision followed discussions with WorkSafe and the accused.

Eugene's family were not in court but Mr Palmer said they had been informed beforehand.

The little boy was the son of a Wittingslow employee and seated on the ride with another six-year-old when he slipped out from underneath the bar designed to hold patrons in place, court documents said.

Eugene was tall enough to go on the ride without a supervising adult.

Wittingslow was charged with breaching workplace safety laws by failing to ensure people are not exposed to risk.

But it and WorkSafe disagreed about who was ultimately responsible for managing the safety of the Cha Cha at the time of the incident.

At a previous court hearing in February, Mr Palmer told magistrate Ross Maxted: "The premise of your question is WorkSafe are the experts".

"The experts in the operation of carnivals are the carnival operators," the QC said.

The Cha Cha had been certified by an engineer before the accident and a safety inspection the day after did not identify any concerns.

It was cleared to reopen two days after the fatal fall.

Seven months later, WorkSafe issued an improvement notice for the Cha Cha, and further modifications were made.

It could still be operated but was not being used, the court was previously told.

Seatbelts were fitted to the Cha Cha after Eugene fell and before the improvement notice was issued.

Wittingslow's barrister Stephen Russell earlier said there was no evidence the company knew the Cha Cha's safety measures at the time of the accident were inadequate.

Outside court on Thursday, ride operator Michael Wittingslow told reporters the process had been "stressful, very much for the family".

WorkSafe has been contacted for comment.

Australian Associated Press