Tag: alton towers health and safety

Smiler Crash: Merlin Attractions fined £5million

The owners of Alton Towers, Merlin Attractions Operation Ltd, have been fined a total of £5million following a roller coaster crash that injured 16 people in June last year.

Recap – Smiler crash

On 2nd June 2015, four people were seriously injured on the Smiler ride when a cart carrying 16 people collided at speed with an empty test cart.

Passengers were suspended at a 45 degree angle over 7 meters off the ground and rescue efforts went on for over four hours. Fire crews had to erect a 25 ft. platform in order to allow emergency services to gain access to the injured passengers.

During the incident, two passengers – Leah Washington, 17, and Vicky Balch, 20 – sustained such serious injuries that they each required leg amputation. Leah and Vicky’s partners, Daniel Thorpe, 27, and Joe Pugh, 18, were also seriously injured in the crash. Daniel suffered leg injuries and a collapsed lung, while Joe’s knees were shattered during in the accident.

A fifth passenger, Chanda Chauhan, 49, was also treated following the crash after sustaining internal injuries and a further eleven passengers suffered whiplash injuries.

Internal investigation

Merlin accepted responsibility for the crash following an internal investigation, during which it emerged that the incident was caused due to ‘human error’. Staff – who could not see the stationary carriage on the track – overrode the ride’s safety measures, sending the carriage with passengers on a collision course with the empty carriage.

In the months following the incident, Alton Towers implemented technical improvements to the ride and changed their systems, including safety features such as improved access and a policy of closing the ride when winds exceed 34mph.

HSE investigation

However, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found no fault with the track, the cars, or the control system that keeps the cars apart from each other when the ride is running. Instead, inspectors found that the collision occurred due to ‘a lack of detailed, robust arrangements for making safety critical decisions’. They found that the engineers who overrode the Smiler’s control system did so without the knowledge and understanding to ensure it was safe to proceed.

Stafford Crown Court heard that whole system, from training through to fixing faults, was not robust enough to prevent a series of errors by staff when working with people on the Smiler ride.


After pleading guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc, 1974, Merlin Attractions Operation Ltd of 3 Market Close, Poole, Dorset were fined a total of £5million. The company was also ordered to pay costs in the amount of £69,955.40.

Head of operations for HSE in the Midlands, Neil Craig, said:

“People visiting theme parks should be able to enjoy themselves safely. On 2 June last year Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd failed to protect their customers, they badly let them down.

“This avoidable incident happened because Merlin failed to put in place systems to allow engineers to work safely on the ride while it was running. This made it all too easy for a whole series of unchecked mistakes, not just one push of a button, to result in tragic consequences.

“Since the incident Alton Towers have made improvements to the ride and their safety protocols, and the lessons learned have been shared industry wide.”

Personal injury compensation – expert help

If you have been injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you may be entitled to personal injury compensation. Our dedicated team of personal injury solicitors offers a FREE no-obligation consultation. For further information about personal injury compensation claims, and to discover whether you have a claim, contact us today on 0800 888 6 888 or email info@hh-law.co.uk.

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Source: Health & Safety Executive; BBC News

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.”