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Alton Towers victim 'feared she would die' on ride

By Ben Chapman, ITV News Correspondent

A teenager who lost her leg following a rollercoaster crash at Alton Towers was afraid she was going to die as paramedics treated her at the scene.

Doctors have revealed that Leah Washington, 18, nearly died on two occasions as they fought to stop her bleeding and give her blood while she was still trapped on the Smiler ride.

Leah told ITV News she sensed how seriously hurt she was as emergency services spent four hours treating her while trying to free her from the crashed carriage.

ITV News has been given footage shot by Leah's family in hospital, as she learns to walk with an artificial leg.

“As blood was coming into me, it was coming out of me. That’s how bad it was,” she said.

“They cut my coat to get to my arm to put a cannula in to give me medication. Once that kicked in, and I was given gas and air, I don’t remember much after that. It’s probably a good thing.

“When you’re listening to doctors saying you need all this medication, I knew I was bad.”

In her first television news interview, Leah describes the moment she learned she had lost her left leg. Doctors carried out the amputation soon after she arrived at hospital by air ambulance on the afternoon of Tuesday 2nd June. They placed her in an induced coma for 24 hours.

“They woke me up on Wednesday evening and I can just remember all my family being round me and I could tell something wasn’t right,” she said.

“It’s a bit of a blur, but my mum and dad have told me that the surgeon came and told me what had happened. And I was just crying and telling him not to tell me.”

Leah and her boyfriend, Joe Pugh, 19, were at the theme park together on their first full day out as a couple. Leah said they “were there for each other” as they sat injured on the ride.

“I think the shock made the pain go away because I don’t remember being in pain until I saw Joe and his injuries. And then I realised how bad it was. So then I looked down at my knees and realised ‘this isn’t good'.”

Recalling the moments before the crash, she said they knew there were problems with the ride after they became stuck for 20 minutes shortly after it began.

“Joe and I were saying, ‘This isn’t right, this can’t be right, there’s something wrong, we need to get off.’

“On the tannoy it said, ‘There’s technical difficulties, we’ll be with you soon.’ So we’re sat there and then all of a sudden the ride just sets off and we’re like, ‘Oh it must be alright.’ But obviously in your mind you’re thinking, ‘It’s broken down once, what if something else happens?’”

She says she then saw an empty rollercoaster carriage on the track ahead of them, moments before the impact.

“I can remember seeing the cart, and thinking, ‘Oh my god, we’re going to bump into it.’

“If I’m honest I just thought, you know, like a bumper car, I just thought it’d bump and just bounce apart. I didn’t expect it to cave in like it did.”

Leah has undergone dozens of hours of physiotherapy in the ten weeks since the crash, and has been measured for a prosthetic leg. She expects to spend up to 18 months being fitted for it and learning to use it.

She says she is still in pain and has difficulty sleeping.

“I have phantom pain. I can feel my foot sometimes and it’s like a burning sensation, like electric shocks. A stabbing pain. It’s not nice. It’s like a sensation you’ve never felt before. It’s really weird.”

The Smiler ride has remained shut at Alton Towers since the crash in June. Credit: Fabio De Paola/PA Wire

Leah had wanted to begin training to be a primary school teacher and had a place at Leeds Trinity in September which she cannot take up. She will soon move into a rented bungalow with her family as their current house is impractical.

She says she is trying to remain positive, but has not thought much about her future.

“I’ve had a lot of support. My friends are here all the time and they always come and visit. I’m just busy all the time.

“If I just sat around the house all day I’d just think about it too much, think about the accident and think about life ahead and I don’t want to do that yet. I’m not ready.”

Watch ITV News' Ben Chapman's full report: