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Alton Towers owner Merlin to face safety charges over rollercoaster crash

Published 25/02/2016

The Smiler rollercoaster ride at Alton Towers resort in Staffordshire
The Smiler rollercoaster ride at Alton Towers resort in Staffordshire

The owner of Alton Towers is to be prosecuted over the Smiler rollercoaster crash in which five people were seriously injured.

The Health and Safety Executive said Merlin Attractions will appear at North Staffordshire Justice Centre on April 22 to face a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Five people were seriously injured on the ride last June, including two women who had legs amputated after their carriage collided with a stationary carriage on the same track.

Neil Craig, head of operations for HSE in the Midlands, said: "We have today informed Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd that it will be prosecuted for breaching health and safety law.

"This was a serious incident with life-changing consequences for five people.

"We have conducted a very thorough investigation and consider that there is sufficient evidence and that it is in the public interest to bring a prosecution."

Merlin Entertainments has seen its annual profits edge up after the accident.

The group - which also owns attractions such as Legoland, Madame Tussauds and the London Eye - said it overcame a fall in revenues at its theme parks to post a pre-tax profit rise of 0.3% to £250 million in the year to December 26 compared with a year ago.

It said Alton Towers had a "significant" fall in visitor numbers after the accident on June 2 2015, which resulted in the 500-acre theme park in Staffordshire being shut down for four days.

Merlin Attractions are alleged to have breached Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety."

Sixteen people were injured in the collision on a low section of the ride, which can reach speeds of up to 50mph.

The five seriously injured were Vicky Balch and Daniel Thorpe, from Buxton in Derbyshire, Leah Washington and Joe Pugh, from Barnsley, and Chandaben Chauhan, from Wednesbury, West Midlands. Miss Washington and Miss Balch each lost a leg as a result of their injuries.

A Merlin statement said: "We have cooperated fully with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) throughout their investigation while continuing to support those who were injured in the accident.

"The company completed its own investigation and published the results in November, accepting responsibility for what happened. We have also kept the HSE fully informed of the subsequent actions that we have taken to ensure that something like this cannot happen again."

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