Busch Gardens closes ride after 4 killed on similar one in Australia

(Courtesy: WFLA)
(Courtesy: WFLA)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Busch Gardens closed the Congo River Rapids ride Tuesday after four people were killed on a similar ride in Australia.

Two men and two women were killed after the river rapids ride malfunctioned at a popular theme park on Australia’s east coast, officials said.

Tampa Busch Gardens officials confirmed to WFLA they closed the Congo River ride after the Australia deaths.

“Out of an abundance of caution we have made the decision to close our Congo River Rapids ride while we work with other park operators and ride manufacturers to understand what happened in Australia,” a Busch Gardens spokeswoman said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those involved in the tragic incident at the Dreamworld park. The safety of guests and team members continues to be Busch Gardens’ number one priority. All ride attractions are inspected daily by trained technicians to ensure they are operating properly and meet all safety guidelines set forth by state agencies and well as the ride manufacturers,” the spokeswoman added.

Fans of Busch Gardens talked with WFLA about the news.

“They should take extra precautions to recheck their ride so it won’t happen again,” Marilyn Wilson said.

Alex Cross was visiting from the United Kingdom.

“They’re just playing it safe, ya know. It’s been open for 10-15 year plus without any issues that we’re aware of so, it just seems a bit (too) precautious,” Cross said.

In Australia, the Thunder River Rapids ride whisked people in circular rafts along a fast-moving, man-made river. A malfunction caused two people to be ejected from their raft, while two others were caught inside the ride, said Gavin Fuller, an officer with the Queensland Ambulance Service. He did not know whether the two victims who were caught in the ride were trapped under water, or caught up in the machinery.

Park staffers administered first aid to the victims, but their injuries proved fatal, Fuller told reporters. The victims were in their 30s and early 40s, he said.