Alton Towers operator fined £5 million over crash which maimed South Yorkshire friends

Joe Pugh and Leah Washinton
Joe Pugh and Leah Washinton
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The operator of Alton Towers has been fined £5 million over a rollercoaster crash which maimed two South Yorkshire friends.

The Smiler rollercoaster crash, which left five passengers with life-changing injuries, was like a 90mph car accident, a court has heard.

Alton Towers operator Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd was fined after admitting a health and safety breach on the ride.

Barnsley teenager Leah Washington, aged 18, lost a leg in the crash in June last year and her friend Joe Pugh, 19, had to learn to walk again after his knees were badly shattered in the crash.

A test carriage had been sent around the ride but had come to rest in a valley of the track, unseen by ride staff.

The engineers had overridden a computer system which they believed had halted the ride in error - and sent a full car along to the track and into the path of the empty carriage.

Sentencing Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd, the Recorder of Stafford, Judge Michael Chambers QC, said it 'fell far short of what was expected'.

He described the crash as a 'catastrophic failure' but said human error was not to blame.

The judge said the crash was 'needless and avoidable' and that victims had been lucky not to have died.

Two of the 16 victims injured in the crash needed leg amputations.