Alton Towers: prosecutions expected over Smiler calamity

Instead of spending her 20th birthday in Tenerife as planned, rollercoaster crash victim Vicky Balch was in hospital. After having her legs crushed, but saved by NHS staff after being air-lifted to Royal Stoke Hospital, Vicky remains in a critical condition. Her injuries, whilst substantial, are not thought to be life-threatening.

Vicky was one of four people seriously injured in last Tuesday’s rollercoaster collision. Her boyfriend, Daniel Thorpe and first-time-daters Joe Pugh and Leah Washington (18 and 17, respectively) were the others on the front row of the ill-fated carriage.

I thought I was a goner

After 2½ suspended in mid-air awaiting rescue, Daniel also had to have emergency surgery. He was taken to University Hospital in Coventry, where staff operated on his broken leg and punctured lung.

Daniel is now stable. But he’s recounted that upon the approach to the ‘stuck’ carriage into which theirs piled, he thought he was a “goner”.

Joe Pugh, who suffered two broken legs, is also out of danger. He’s taken to twitter to thank everyone for their kind wishes and support.

17-year old has leg amputated

The youngest victim, Leah Washington, also went through the mill whilst waiting to be freed from crumpled carriage.

According to one witness, during her four-hour ordeal she fainted, had to have morphine and a blood transfusion whilst the emergency services did what they could for the stranded passengers.

The same witness told The Sun how “doctors and firemen were covered” in blood during the rescue attempt.

Unfortunately, their attempts weren’t enough to save one of Miss Washington’s legs, which has since had to be amputated.

She, like the Vicky Balch, now faces a tough rehabilitation battle ahead.

Alton Towers: not usually Fawlty

A spokesman for Alton Towers was quick to call upon Alton Towers’ “strong safety record”. However, their statement read that the accident was deeply regrettable.

Their priority now is to ensure that failsafes are tightened to ensure this never happens again.

Three other rides across the country have been closed until new measures are put into place. Saw (Thorpe Park), Dragon’s Fury and the Rattlesnake (both at Chessington World of Adventures) are closed until further notice.

Human Error as much to do with crash as mechanics

Since then, an ex-employee has come forward stating that human error is to blame, rather than mechanical.

Before a carriage is allowed n the track, its wheels have to be warmed up. In order to garner the traction needed, the carriages should contain water-filled dummies.

Three recent tests using empty carriages have seen them stuck in a similar manner to that which caused the Alton Towers tragedy.

In any event, the ex-employee related that there are 15 CCTV cameras that monitor the Smiler ride. Even if the test carriage did get stuck, staff should have spotted it.

Lawyers are due to meet with Merlin Entertainment, who own Alton Towers. As well as compensation, there is a strong possibility of criminal prosecution, according to one of the lawyers acting for one of the victims.

The investigation has been passed to the HSE for the time being.

Alton Towers reopened today for the first time since the tragedy. It has been reported that the park lost around £2.5M during its closure. That figure may well pale into significance once the clients’ compensation is decided in court.

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