Alton Towers owner fined £5m

Alton Towers operator Merlin Attractions has been fined £5m over the rollercoaster crash which caused a Leyland teenager to lose a leg.

Fellow front-row passengers Joe Pugh and Daniel Thorpe, and Chandaben Chauhan, who was sitting in the second row, were also seriously injured.

Alton Towers theme park Smiler ride accident victim Vicky Balch (right) and her mother Karen arrive at Stafford Crown Court

Alton Towers theme park Smiler ride accident victim Vicky Balch (right) and her mother Karen arrive at Stafford Crown Court

Stafford Crown Court heard the victims had watched with “disbelief and horror” before ploughing into an empty carriage on the track, with the impact likened by the prosecution to a 90mph car crash.

The company was fined after the court heard that an engineer “felt pressure” to get the Smiler ride back into service after it developed a fault shortly before the devastating crash.

An expert witness report also said Alton Towers management linked bonuses to “acceptably low levels of downtime” on their rollercoasters.

Judge Michael Chambers QC called the accident a “catastrophic failure” by the company involving basic health and safety measures.

He said the “obvious shambles of what occurred” could have been “easily avoided” by a suitable written system to deal with ride faults and a proper risk assessment.

The judge added: “This was a needless and avoidable accident in which those injured were fortunate not to have been killed or bled to death.”

He said the injured “endured great pain and distress” while waiting for medical help, with the first 999 call not made until 17 minutes after the crash.

It took up to five hours for them to be freed from the wreckage.

Merlin Attractions admitted health and safety breaches.

Responding to the sentencing, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) said more serious offences should be met with more punitive measures to help deter potential future health and safety breaches and was pleased this was one of the first significantly-sized companies affected by new sentencing guidelines.