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HSE to Prosecute Merlin Entertainment after Smiler Crash

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced its intention to prosecute Alton Towers owners Merlin Entertainments PLC under a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The charge relates to the Smiler Roller Coaster incident of 2nd June 2015, in which five people were seriously injured (two requiring amputation). Neil Craig, HSE Head of Operations for the Midlands, commented:

“This was a serious incident with life-changing consequences for five people. We have conducted a very thorough investigation and consider that there is sufficient evidence and that it is in the public interest to bring a prosecution.”

Smiler Roller Coaster – high speed crash

  1. On 2nd June 2015, Alton Towers’ Smiler roller coaster began to experience difficulties – onlookers witnessed the ride stopping and starting.
  2. Staff closed the ride and sent an empty test carriage around the track, but did not notice that the carriage had not returned and had stopped at the bottom of a loop.
  3. The ride re-opened to the public. 16 people boarded the ride. The ride began, but the automatic safety features halted the carriage on the track for ten minutes.
  4. Staff with no clear view of the track overrode the safety measures, sending the carriage on a collision course with the stationary empty carriage.


Nick Varney, Chief Executive of Merlin Entertainments, commented:

“Technically what happened is impossible and should not have happened”

“Rollercoasters are designed so you do not have two cars on the same path of the track and obviously two were because that’s what happened. So we need to look into that very quickly and closely.”

The smiler


Manufacturer: Gerstlauer (based in Germany), also manufactured the carriages for a rollercoaster in a theme park in Texas that saw a woman fall to her death in 2013.
Opening date: 31st May 2013
Max speed: 52.8mph (85km/h)
Production cost: £18 million
Inversions: 14
G-force: 4.5
Duration: 2 minutes 45 seconds

Smiler crash – serious injuries

Of the 16 people travelling aboard the carriage during the collision, five were seriously injured:

  • Joe Pugh, 18, shattered knees
  • Vicky Balch, 20, leg amputation
  • Leah Washington, 17, leg amputation
  • Chanda Chauhan, 49, internal injuries
  • Daniel Thorpe, 27, leg injuries & collapsed lung

Smiler Rollercoaster owners face prosecution

Merlin Attractions Operation Ltd, based in Poole, Dorset, will face charges of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The hearing will take place at North Staffordshire Justice Centre, Newcastle-under-Lyme on 22nd April 2016. If you would like further information about legal issues surrounding serious injury, contact us today for expert advice on 0800 888 6 888 or email


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