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Merlin fined £5m over Alton Towers Smiler crash

Merlin Attractions has been told it must pay a £5 million fine for a catastrophic failure of safety which led to a crash at Alton Towers.

Two teenagers lost legs in the crash on the Smiler ride last summer.

The court heard that an engineer felt pressure to get the ride back into service, and that management linked bonuses to the time rides weren't working.

Charlotte Grant reports:


Smiler victim: My family has been left 'totally broken'

A mother-of-two who suffered serious abdominal injuries in last year's Smiler rollercoaster crash at Alton Towers said the accident had changed her from a "confident" person to one whose family had been left "totally broken".

Speaking outside Stafford Crown Court, where the theme park's owner Merlin was fined £5 million for health and safety failings, Chanda Chauhan, from Wednesbury in the West Midlands, said: "I did think it (the fine) was going to be more but as I said before it is still irrelevant to what situation we're still in.

"I'm scared to go in a car even now but I do it because I have to, I'm a mother and I want to be independent and it's taken me nearly a year just to be out here like this.

"My personal message to Merlin, to the legal side - just do the right thing and look after us all.

"Psychologically, psychiatric effects on people are invisible but they are there, do not be fooled. We struggle every day with it."

Merlin boss: We 'let people down' over Smiler crash

The chief executive of Merlin Entertainments has said the company had "let people down with devastating consequences" after last year's Smiler rollercoaster crash at Alton Towers.

In a statement outside Stafford Crown Court, where the company was fined £5 million for health and safety failings, Nick Varney said: "From the beginning the company has accepted full responsibility for the terrible accident at Alton Towers and has made sincere and heartfelt apologies to those who were injured.

"In accepting responsibility and liability very early on we have tried to make the healing and compensation process as trouble free as possible for all of those involved.

"We have strived to fulfil our promise to support them in every way and I promise that this support will continue as long as they need it.

"We were always aware that we would end up here today facing a substantial penalty, as has been delivered by the court today. (But) the far greater punishment for all of us is knowing that on this occasion we let people down with devastating consequences.

"It is something we will never forget and it is something we are utterly determined will never be repeated."

Alton Towers £5m fine 'record for the industry'

The £5m fine handed to Alton Towers operator Merlin over last year's Smiler rollercoaster crash is believed to be a record for the industry, a solicitor acting on behalf of eight of the victims has said.

Paul Paxton said the end of the two-day sentencing hearing marks the "closure" of a "long and painful chapter" for the victims, two of whom required leg amputations.

Despite the fine, for what the judge described as an "easily avoidable accident", Mr Paxton added that "money alone will never replace limbs nor heal the psychological scars".

Speaking outside Stafford Crown Court, he said: "It's worth remembering that this hearing is the first time that my clients have heard the full extent of the criticisms against Merlin.

"To be candid, they have been shocked and disappointed by the catalogue of errors. The list goes on and on: a catastrophic failure to assess risk, inadequate training, inadequate supervision, inadequate management, failure to communicate (and a) failure to put in place safe systems of work."

HSE: Alton Towers 'let Smiler victims badly down'

Alton Towers operator Merlin let their customers "badly down" when several passengers were seriously injured in last year's Smiler rollercoaster crash, the Health and Safety Executive has said.

Speaking outside Stafford Crown Court, where the company was fined £5 million for health and safety failings, Neil Craig, HSE's Head of Operations for the Midlands, said: "When people visit theme parks, they should be able to enjoy themselves safely.

"On 2nd June last year, Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd failed to protect their customers. They let them badly down. It is right that they've been held to account for those failings in a criminal court.

"This avoidable incident happened because Merlin failed to put in place systems that would allow their engineers to work safely on the ride whilst it was running. 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.

"Since the incident, Merlin have made improvements to the ride and to their safety protocols - and the lessons learned have been shared with the industry."


Judge: Smiler crash could have been 'easily avoided'

Vicky Balch (fourth from left) and Leah Washington (right) both lost a leg in the crash. Joe Pugh (second right) was also seriously injured.

The Smiler rollercoaster crash at Alton Towers was a "catastrophic failure" of health and safety and could have been "easily avoided" by a suitable written system to deal with ride faults and a proper risk assessment, Judge Michael Chambers QC has told Stafford Crown Court.

Concluding the two-day sentencing hearing, he said the injured "endured great pain and distress" while waiting for medical help, with the first 999 call not made until 17 minutes after the crash. It took up to five hours for them to be freed from the wreckage.

"Human error was not the cause as was suggested by the defendant in an early press release," he added.

"The defendant now accepts the prosecution case that the underlying fault was an absence of a structured and considered system not that of individuals' efforts, doing their best within a flawed system.

"Members of the public have been exposed to serious risk of one train colliding with another with a computer control system was reset, having been overridden to address a fault."

Alton Towers owner Merlin fined £5m over Smiler crash

Several passengers were seriously injured in the crash on June 2 last year.

Alton Towers operator Merlin Attractions has been fined £5 million after admitting health and safety failings which led to the Smiler rollercoaster crash.

Two teenagers - Vicky Balch, then 19, and Leah Washington, then 17 - each lost a leg in the collision in June last year which "changed the lives of some of those injured in the most dramatic way", according to a judge.

Stafford Crown Court heard that the victims had watched with "disbelief and horror" before ploughing into an empty carriage on the track, with the impact likened by the prosecution to a 90mph car crash.

The company was fined after the court heard that an engineer "felt pressure" to get Smiler back into service after it developed a fault shortly before the devastating crash.

Alton Towers: Human error not the cause of Smiler crash

Human error was not the cause of last year's Smiler rollercoaster crash at Alton Towers, a judge has said.

On the second day of a two-day sentencing hearing at Stafford Crown Court, the judge also said the crash was a "needless and avoidable accident" caused by a "catastrophic failure" of safety.

Theme park operator Merlin is facing a large fine for health and safety failings, which led to two teenage girls needing leg amputations.

ITV News Correspondent Ben Chapman has the latest from court:

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