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  1. ITV Report

Alton Towers operator admits health and safety breach over Smiler crash

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Ben Chapman

The operator of Alton Towers has admitted breaching health and safety laws over the Smiler rollercoaster crash.

Two female passengers on the ride underwent leg amputations following the crash in June last year, while three other people were seriously injured after their carriage collided with a stationary carriage on the same track.

Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd indicated a guilty plea to a charge of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act at a court hearing on Friday morning.

Lawyers representing some of the injured described it as a "milestone" for the victims.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said Merlin had "failed in its legal duty to protect people" on the ride.

Leah Washington (left), Joe Pugh and Vicky Balch arrive at court. Credit: PA

Several victims of the crash were at court in Staffordshire for the hearing.

The prosecution said the victims of the crash suffered "indescribable pain" and had "their lives turned upside down".

The case was sent to the crown court for sentencing. District Judge Jack McGarva warned the company "may be ordered to pay a very large fine".

The damaged carriage where passengers were sitting. Credit: HSE
  • ITV News Midlands Correspondent Ben Chapman was in court for the hearing:

The Smiler ride was closed following the crash, but reopened in March, eight months after the crash.

In total sixteen people were injured on the ride when the carriage they were in collided with another that had come to a halt on the track on June 2.

Leah Washington and Vicky Balch both had to have a leg amputated following the crash.

Leah's boyfriend Joe Pugh was left with life-changing injuries after both his kneecaps were shattered, while Vicky's partner Daniel Thorpe, and Chandaben Chauhan, 49, were also seriously injured.

The Smiler ride reopened in March. Credit: PA

Paul Paxton, whose firm represents Ms Balch, Ms Washington and Mr Pugh, said: "It is comforting for the families that a plea of guilty has been entered rather than the victims having to endure a drawn out trial.

"Inevitably, this guilty plea will be a milestone along the way to psychological rehabilitation.

"Regrettably the physical recovery will be a lifelong process."

Neil Craig, head of operations for HSE in the Midlands said: “We welcome the guilty plea entered by Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd. Merlin has acknowledged that it failed in its legal duty to protect people on the Smiler ride.

“Those injured on June 2 last year had every right to expect a carefree and fun day out.

“The incident was profoundly distressing for everyone involved, both physically and mentally. It left some with life changing injuries.

“We hope this first milestone will help those affected to continue their recovery from this tragic incident.”

Passengers had their legs crushed in the crash. Credit: HSE