Smiler crash: Alton Towers owner to be prosecuted

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The SmilerImage source, PA
Image caption,
The crash on the Smiler, in June, left five people seriously injured

The owner of Alton Towers is to be prosecuted over the Smiler rollercoaster crash which left five people seriously injured.

Two women lost a leg and three others were seriously injured when their carriage collided with a stationary carriage on the same track last year.

Merlin Attractions Operation Ltd will appear at North Staffordshire Justice Centre on 22 April.

It will face a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Neil Craig, head of operations for The Health and Safety Executive in the Midlands, said: "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."

Four people sitting in the front row of the carriage were among those most seriously hurt in the crash.

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Image caption,
(l-r) Daniel Thorpe, Vicky Balch, Joe Pugh and Leah Washington were among those seriously injured

Vicky Balch, 20, from Lancashire, had six rounds of surgery in a bid to save her leg before needing an amputation.

Leah Washington, 17, from Barnsley, also had one of her legs amputated, while her 18-year-old boyfriend, Joe Pugh, shattered his knees.

Daniel Thorpe, 27, from Buxton in Derbyshire, was treated for a collapsed lung and lower leg injuries.

Another passenger, Chanda Chauhan, 49, from Wednesbury, had surgery after suffering internal injuries.

Human error

Following an initial investigation, Alton Towers said human error caused the crash.

The theme park said staff misunderstood a shutdown message and wrongly restarted the ride.

"This led to a decision to manually restart the ride, overriding the control system without appropriate safety protocols being followed correctly," a spokesperson said at the time.

No technical or mechanical issues were found with the ride itself.

Alton Towers had a "significant" fall in visitor numbers after the accident on June 2, which resulted in the 500-acre theme park in Staffordshire being shut down for four days.

However, it was reported on Thursday profits at the park have edged up, despite last summer's accident.

The Poole-based company, which also owns Legoland and the London Eye, said group pre-tax profits rose 0.3% to £250m from 2014.