UK

Alton Towers crash victim Vicky Balch 'feared death'

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Media captionVicky Balch (her words are spoken by an actor): "I felt the bars go into my knees"

A woman injured in a rollercoaster crash at Alton Towers theme park has said she thought she was going to die.

Vicky Balch, 20, of Lancashire, was one of five people who sustained serious injuries on the Smiler ride on 2 June.

Speaking for the first time about the events, she told the BBC "her only thoughts" as she waited for about four-and-a-half hours to be rescued were that she would not survive.

Her lawyer Paul Paxton also revealed Miss Balch is battling to save her leg.

Another victim, Leah Washington, 17, had her leg amputated above the knee.

Miss Balch, from Leyland, was sitting in the front of the ride alongside Miss Washington, Joe Pugh and Daniel Thorpe, when it hit an empty carriage.

The crash left them and 12 other people trapped 25ft (7.6m) above the ground. They were taken off the ride by firefighters using a hydraulic platform.

Miss Balch later underwent surgery for "significant" leg injuries and remains in hospital.

Miss Balch said: "It felt like slow motion. We banged into the car in front. I felt the bars go into my knees; we moved backwards and the car went into us again.

"I passed out. I was awoken by Dan shouting my name. Everyone was screaming and I was in excruciating pain. I looked down and I could see blood all over. The bars were in my right knee...

"The only thought that was going through my mind for the hours and hours that we were stuck was that we were going to die. If I was going to survive I would never walk again, that was certain.

"I thought it was never going to end. I just wanted to die."

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Image caption Leah Washington, Joe Pugh and Daniel Thorpe were in the ride's front carriage with Vicky Balch

Miss Washington, 17, from Barnsley in South Yorkshire, was also treated for a fractured hand. Her boyfriend, Mr Pugh, 18, also from Barnsley, shattered his knee, while Mr Thorpe, a 27-year-old old hotel assistant manager from Buxton, Derbyshire, was treated for a collapsed lung and fractured leg.

A fifth victim, Chandaben Chauhan, 49, of Wednesbury, West Midlands, was admitted to hospital with internal injuries.

Footage of passengers

Lawyer Paul Paxton, head of the personal injury department at Stewarts Law, told the BBC: "Vicky has some very nasty leg injuries and I think it's fair to say that she is fighting... to survive, with one of the legs, to avoid an amputation. She's got some difficult times ahead... she's battling very hard."

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Media captionVicky Balch's lawyer Paul Paxton: "She's got some difficult times ahead"

As well as Miss Balch and Miss Washington, Mr Paxton represents Mr Pugh, and five of the other passengers who were on the Smiler rollercoaster when it crashed, although not Mr Thorpe.

TV news broadcasts of the aftermath of the crash showed footage of the passengers on the ride as they waited to be rescued and Mr Paxton said Miss Washington's parents were still "coping" with the images.

He said Miss Washington's father recognised his daughter on TV because of her clothing.

"Certainly Leah's father was aware for many an hour that his daughter was on the ride," said Mr Paxton. "The only comfort, if that's the right way to put it, was that it wasn't clear early on the full extent of the injuries."

But he said the experience of seeing the rescue on TV added to his "trauma".

Image copyright PA
Image caption The crash left 16 people trapped on the ride for about four and a half hours

Mr Paxton said that despite her amputation, Miss Washington's morale in hospital was "fantastic".

"She's up, in a chair, and she's around the hospital," he said. "Tremendous to see. But of course, a long, long programme of rehabilitation in front of her."

Merlin Entertainment, which owns Alton Towers, has said it contacted those injured and all 16 on board at the time of the crash will receive compensation. It said the crash was the first accident in the company's history.

Mr Paxton said he believed compensation for the most seriously injured could run into "millions of pounds".

He said: "You've got to plan over a lifetime, it's not just now, it's not just in the short-term rehabilitative period. It's got to be to cover them for the rest of their lives."

A Health and Safety Executive investigation into the crash is continuing.

Mr Paxton said his clients were "angered initially that this could happen in a theme park designed for pleasure".

He added: "They do want to have answers and actually it may depend on what those answers are in the investigation, because it's all very well now to say now we must move on with our lives, but if the investigation reveals great holes in terms of the training process, people being flippant with their children's safety, then I think that anger will reignite."

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