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Alton Towers operator fined £5 million over Smiler crash

Judge finds Merlin Attractions guilty of a “catastrophic failure to assess risk” over the collision

Pictured: The Smiler at Alton Towers

Alton Towers' owner has been ordered to pay a £5 million fine after admitting breaking health and safety laws over a rollercoaster crash that left five people with life-changing injuries.

Judge Michael Chambers QC said the theme park’s owner, Merlin Attractions, was guilty of a “catastrophic failure to assess risk” over the collision on the Smiler ride in June last year.

The crash, which was described in court as similar to a 90mph car accident, saw two people have their legs amputated and left three others with serious injuries.

Fining Merlin Attractions after a two-day sentencing at Stafford crown court, Judge Chambers said: “This was a needless and avoidable accident in which those injured were fortunate not to have been killed or to have bled to death.

“It was, in my judgment, aggravated by the lack of proper emergency access to the accident site which meant that those injured remained trapped in great pain and distress hanging at an angle of 45 degrees some 20 feet above the ground for four to five hours before being released by the emergency services and taken to hospital.”

The judge added that human error was not to blame and that the firm “fell far short” of expected safety standards.

Prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), barrister Bernard Thorogood said that while a series of four human errors led to the crash, “fault here is with the employers”, not the staff.

A 254-page report commissioned by the HSE criticised management for its “manifestly inadequate” handling of the technical monitoring of the ride.

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