Alton Towers admits breaching safety laws

Leah Washington and Joe Pugh arrive at North Staffordshire Justice Centre in Newcastle-under-Lyme, where Alton Towers operator Merlin indicated a guilty plea to a charge of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act over the Smiler rollercoaster crash in June last year which left five people, including Joe and Leah, seriously injured. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday April 22, 2016. Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd had previously accepted responsibility for the crash after carrying out its own internal investigation following the incident, which resulted in two women having legs amputated after their carriage collided with a stationary carriage on the same track. See PA story COURTS AltonTowers. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
Leah Washington and Joe Pugh arrive at North Staffordshire Justice Centre in Newcastle-under-Lyme, where Alton Towers operator Merlin indicated a guilty plea to a charge of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act over the Smiler rollercoaster crash in June last year which left five people, including Joe and Leah, seriously injured. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday April 22, 2016. Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd had previously accepted responsibility for the crash after carrying out its own internal investigation following the incident, which resulted in two women having legs amputated after their carriage collided with a stationary carriage on the same track. See PA story COURTS AltonTowers. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
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Alton Towers operator Merlin is facing a hefty fine after admitting a breach of health and safety rules over the Smiler rollercoaster crash which cost a Barnsley woman her leg.

Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd had already accepted responsibility after an internal investigation following the incident which left two women needing leg amputations when their carriage hit another stationary train-car on the track on June 2 last year.

It emerged that a manual operator ‘overrode’ the ride’s governing computer system.

Indicating a guilty plea at North Staffordshire Justice Centre yesterday, Merlin’s counsel, Simon Antrobus, said: “The company is accepting additional reasonable and practicable measures could have been taken to guard against the safety risk that arose on the day.”

District Judge Jack McGarva warned that the £250 million-a-year turnover company faced ‘very high culpability’ over the incident and ‘may be ordered to pay a very large fine’.

Present during the hearing were the five most seriously injured victims and their families, including Leah Washington, from Barnsley, who lost a leg.

They listened from the public gallery as the Health and Safety Executive, which brought the case, said that the ride had never had ‘a proper settled system’ for staff to follow when carriages stopped on-track, since the ride opened.

Bernard Thorogood, for the HSE, told the court: “The Smiler rollercoaster came into operation in 2013 in May and in our schedule ran from then until the time of the accident at the beginning of June 2015 in a way that was not as safe as it should have been.”

The case as been transferred to Stafford Crown Court.