By Ben Chapman: ITV News Midlands Reporter
A teenager seriously hurt in last month’s rollercoaster crash at Alton Towers says he is not bitter or angry at the owners of the theme park, despite suffering two shattered knees.
In the first television interview with any of the people involved in the crash, Joe Pugh, 18, told ITV News he was worried he was paralysed in the hours that followed, and revealed he will never regain the use of one of his fingers after it was nearly severed in the impact.
He says he cannot stop thinking about the crash.
"I just heard a bang and something hit my knees. And then I just opened my eyes and was like, ‘What’s happened?’ And then I looked down and realised that it wasn’t good. I looked down the row and saw blood… And then we just stopped and I could just hear screams and people taking pictures and it was just horrific.
“There was loads of stuff going through the back of my mind: am I going to be alright, am I not, am I going to be paralysed, am I not. I thought of everything, and I thought of the worst.”
Joe’s girlfriend of two months, Leah Washington, 17, was with him on the Smiler ride, and remains in hospital after having part of her leg amputated.
He says she is “recovering well,” and that their injuries will not affect their relationship.
“She’s still the same person. It’s like if you lost a friend because they changed their hair colour, that’s how I thought of it, and if you lose somebody just because they’ve lost a limb then you’re not worth having.
“When I went down the other day for an outpatient appointment, we went out for a meal and it felt like nothing had changed. But obviously then she has to get in a wheelchair and go back to hospital and I have to get on my crutches to go to the toilet or whatever, and it brings it back to you that something has happened.”
An investigation into the crash by the Health and Safety Executive is still ongoing, but Alton Towers has already accepted responsibility, and offered compensation to the victims.
“I’m not angry about it,” Joe says, “because I don’t know how it happened. Maybe when we find out actually how it did happen then those emotions might come."
He says he is focusing on getting back to university in September, and his mobility is improving every day.
“I can’t walk for longer than half an hour because it starts to ache and I can tell when I haven’t had my painkillers. If I were to go clothes shopping I’d definitely have to go in my wheelchair. I couldn’t walk around for that amount of time.
"But I am just taking each day as it comes and I am getting on really well but it’s just going to take a lot of time until I’m fully better.
"I keep telling people, 'It’s been a month.' Wait another month and another month and before you know it three months will have passed and God knows what I’ll be like then.”