England

Alton Towers Smiler accident victims named

Joe Pugh and Leah Washington Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Joe Pugh and Leah Washington were riding the Smiler on Tuesday

Two teenagers have been named as victims of the Alton Towers rollercoaster accident.

Joe Pugh, 18, and his girlfriend Leah Washington, aged 17, both of Barnsley, were riding on the Smiler on Tuesday.

Two carriages crashed on the ride at the Staffordshire theme park, leaving some passengers trapped for four-and-a-half hours about 25ft (7.6m) up in the air.

Mr Pugh and Miss Washington and another man and a woman suffered leg injuries.

A man who operated the Smiler ride when it opened in 2013, who gave his name only as Mark, has expressed his frustration the accident happened.

Meanwhile, Oaks Working Men's Club, in Barnsley, where Mr Pugh works said: "We at The Oaks WMC would like to extend our prayers and best wishes in the speedy recovery of our barman Joe Pugh and his girlfriend Leah Washington."

Image copyright Other
Image caption Joe Pugh, 18, works at The Oaks Working Men's Club in Barnsley

Mr Pugh's friend Alice Holmes spoke of her shock to the BBC's Mark Ansell.

She said: "I text saying 'Are you ok? Smiler has crashed' and I never got a reply.

"I text him again and again and he still didn't reply. Then, this morning I saw a clip on the news and I knew it was him from his outfit because he dresses quite nice."

The BBC's Declan Wilson spoke to friends of Miss Washington, who said she was the more badly injured. One friend said she had injuries to her legs, hips and hands.

Closed for a second day

Image copyright WMAS
Image caption The carriage was travelling at 20mph when it crashed

Alton Towers said on social media that the park would remain closed on Thursday, as an investigation into the cause of the accident continued.

Nick Varney, chief executive of the park's owners Merlin Entertainments, said: "A full investigation is now under way and we will continue to work closely with the emergency services and the Health and Safety Executive to better understand the cause of this terrible accident."

The accident happened at around 14:00 BST on Tuesday, leaving 16 people stuck in the air at an angle of about 45 degrees.

Image caption People at the theme park reported hearing "a loud crash" when the collision happened

The park said the carriage carrying the people was travelling at 20mph when it crashed.

Four people were airlifted to major trauma centres across the West Midlands.

People at the theme park reported hearing "a loud crash" when the collision happened.

'Get well soon pal'

Mr Pugh, a textile design student at the University of Huddersfield, has been sent supportive messages on social media from friends.

"Wishing Joe Pugh and his girlfriend a speedy recovery," Kay Eggleston wrote.

Ross William Gibson wrote: "Can't believe when I wrote this I didn't know one of the four was my friend Joe Pugh and his girlfriend. Get well soon pal."

Infinity Coaster rides

  • The Smiler was the first of three Infinity Coasters built by German manufacturer Gerstlauer
  • The other two coasters are at PowerPark in Finland and Erlebnispark Tripsdrill in Germany
  • The coaster in Finland, called Junker, has only been open to the public since Saturday and is running as normal today
  • Mikko Kiviluoma from PowerPark said: "Our rollercoaster Junker is a brand new model with the latest technology, so as we know it is a different model. Junker was built up during this spring 2015 and tested over 2,000 times before it opened. Safety is number one thing in PowerPark and we do normal checks every day for all our rollercoasters and other equipment."
Image copyright Fabio De Paola/PA Wire
Image caption The Smiler rollercoaster cost £18m and boasts a world record-breaking 14 loops

Mark, who operated the Smiler ride in 2013, said: "I am frustrated that such a simple error has been made, knowing myself how the system should function and that it is one of the safest rides I've ever worked on.

"One carriage should only be in a certain block section at a time.

"When the empty carriage didn't make it to the next block section after a certain amount of time, the ride should have stopped any other carriages being sent and entering that block."

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