Alton Towers operator, Merlin, has been hit with a £5 million fine as punishment for the Smiler rollercoaster crash, that left 16 people injured in June last year.
The chief executive of Merlin entertainments, Nick Varney, appeared outside the court and stated that the company were determined to “never repeat” the accident and that the firm was not an emotionless corporate entity, despite the fact they initially said that the accident was caused by human error.
Prosecutor, Bernard Thorgood, argued this point however, saying that workers were not given a system to follow in order deal with the issue safely and that blame lies solely with the employer and not down to individuals.
In April this year, Merlin finally admitted to breaching the Health and Safety Act and today was their day of reckoning, with sentencing Judge, Michael Chambers QC describing the crash as a “catastrophic failure”, before confirming that human error was not the cause as first suggested and that it was a needless and avoidable accident in which those involved were lucky not to be killed.
Crash victims shocked and disappointed
Of the 16 people who were injured, four suffered catastrophic injuries, including Vicky Balch and Leah Washington, who both lost a leg. They were both at the sentencing hearing today along with Daniel Thorpe and Chandaben Chauhan who were the other two seriously injured in the crash
The representative for the victims spoke of today’s decision outside the court, saying his clients were “shocked and disappointed by the catalogue of errors.”
He followed this up by stating: “Money alone will never replace limbs, nor heal the psychological scars.”
It was revealed to the court that engineers had failed to notice a carriage that had stopped midway around the ride and had assumed that the problem was down to the computer. They then overrode the stop mechanism and released another train into the empty carriage.
Head of the Health and Safety Executive, Neil Craig, stated: “This avoidable incident happened because Merlin failed to put in place systems that allowed their engineers to work safely on the ride while it was running.”
They concluded that the accident could have been avoided and that Merlin had led its customers down.