Alton Towers operator Merlin fined £5m over Smiler crash

Victims outside court

Image caption

Vicky Balch, Daniel Thorp, Joe Pugh and Leah Washington (L-R), who were all seriously injured in the crash, attended the sentencing hearing

Alton Towers operator Merlin has been fined £5m for the crash on the Smiler rollercoaster.

Sixteen people were injured in the June 2015 crash, including two teenage girls who needed leg amputations.

In April, Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd admitted breaching the Health and Safety Act.

The theme park originally said the accident was caused by “human error.” But prosecutors argued the fault was with the employer not individuals.

Alton Towers sentencing: Live updates

Sentencing, Judge Michael Chambers QC described the crash on the £18m attraction as a “catastrophic failure” and said human error was not the cause as was suggested at first.

“This was a needless and avoidable accident in which those who were injured were lucky not to be killed,” he said.

‘Catalogue of errors’

He said the crash was foreseeable but accepted the defendant had taken full and extensive steps to remedy the problems that led to the crash.

Speaking outside court after sentencing, Paul Paxton, representing eight of the victims, said his clients had been “shocked and disappointed by the catalogue of errors”.

He added: “Money alone will never replace limbs, nor heal the psychological scars.”

Image caption

Sixteen people were injured in the crash last June

A report from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) concluded the accident could have been avoided.

Neil Craig, head of the HSE in the Midlands, said Merlin had let its customers down.

“This avoidable incident happened because Merlin failed to put in place systems that allowed their engineers to work safely on the ride while it was running,” he said.

“This made it all too easy for a whole series of unchecked mistakes, not just the single push of a button, to result in tragedy.”

The court had heard on Monday how engineers failed to notice a carriage that had stopped midway around the 14-loop ride.

Image caption

In April, Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd admitted breaching the Health and Safety Act

They assumed there was a problem with the computer and over-rode the stop mechanism setting another train in motion and into the empty carriage.

Bernard Thorogood, prosecuting for the HSE, said workers had not been been given a system to follow which would safely deal with the issue.

He said engineers had not read or seen the ride’s operating instructions.

He also pointed out there were estimated winds on the day of the crash of 45mph but the manufacturer’s manual stated the ride should not be operated at wind speeds above 34mph.

Simon Antrobus, defending Merlin, said a press release in November blaming “human error” was wrong and had been corrected.

He said a safety procedure in place had been in place, including an alarm designed to sound when wind speeds exceed 32mph – but it did not go off.

Vicky Balch, then 19, and Leah Washington, then 17, each lost a leg in the crash.

Joe Pugh, Daniel Thorpe and Chandaben Chauhan were also badly injured.

The Smiler ride reopened in March.

Since the crash, a number of safety changes have been made including improved access and a policy of closing the ride when winds exceed 35mph.

Alton Towers operator Merlin fined £5m over Smiler crash

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *