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Delay calling 999 after ride crash

Published 04/06/2015

Four people were seriously injured after two carriages collided on Alton Towers rollercoaster The Smiler (@_ben_jamming/PA)
Four people were seriously injured after two carriages collided on Alton Towers rollercoaster The Smiler (@_ben_jamming/PA)

Emergency services were not called to Alton Towers until 11 minutes after Tuesday's rollercoaster crash which left four people with serious injuries, it has emerged.

A spokeswoman for the Staffordshire tourist attraction confirmed the incident happened at 1.57pm and that first responders were present "within two or three minutes".

Yesterday, the spokeswoman said claims that staff delayed contacting emergency services were "just wrong", and that they were in fact "called immediately".

But the theme park has tonight confirmed the 999 call was not made until 2.08pm and that emergency services were present "within 10 minutes" of that call being made.

Alton Towers confirmed it will stay closed again tomorrow as it racks up losses of around £500,000 a day following the crash, involving ride The Smiler, which left 16 people hurt.

A man and a woman who were among those seriously injured in the incident have been named as Daniel Thorpe, a 27-year-old hotel assistant manager from Buxton in Derbyshire, and Vicky Balch, 19, from Leyland in Lancashire.

A spokesman for University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire said Mr Thorpe "is stable".

In a statement, Mr Thorpe's family said: "We would like to thank everyone for their wishes at this time and would ask for some privacy while Daniel recovers."

Mr Thorpe works at the Izaak Walton Hotel near Ashbourne, Derbyshire.

He had previously worked at the Bentley Brook Inn in Fenny Bentley.

Landlady Wendy Livingstone said: "He worked here two years ago. He was liked by the customers and staff and enjoyed sport. Of course it has been a shock to us."

Textile design student Joe Pugh, 18, and his girlfriend Leah Washington, 17, were also seriously hurt in the crash.

Mr Pugh tweeted that he had been "overwhelmed" by the support people had shown since the accident.

He said: "So overwhelmed with the response I've had from my accident at Alton Towers. Thank you for everyone's concern."

Ms Washington is said to have been given a blood transfusion and morphine before she passed out following the collision.

Witnesses said the ride had experienced technical difficulties earlier in the day, with some claiming that the empty cart involved in the crash had been on a test run when it came to stop.

Neil Craig, head of operations for HSE in the Midlands, said that a specialist team of inspectors were at the scene in Staffordshire making inquiries.

He added: "Our role is to establish the facts. We will want to determine that those responsible for operating this ride have done what the law requires. We will also ensure that if there are any lessons to be learned, they are shared as soon as possible.

"Although the investigation is in its early stages, we will take action to protect the public if we uncover evidence that could affect the safety of other rides at the park or elsewhere."

Nick Varney, chief executive of Merlin Entertainments, said the park could reopen only when the investigation had concluded but did not give a time-frame.

Writing in the Sun, he said: "At this point, I don't know if it was a technological or a human error. We want to know if this issue is isolated to The Smiler. We can't open again until we're sure."

Among those on board was Vanisha Singh, 29, who was in the second row of the carriage with her mother Chanda, 49, and her sister Meera, 26.

She told the Sun there had been "technical difficulties" moments before they embarked on the ride, as several test cars were sent ahead of them.

"We finally went up and were kept at the top for 10 or 15 minutes chatting, joking that we were the guinea pigs," she said.

Describing the crash, she added: "The metal safety bar smashed into our legs. There was loads of screaming. I felt a burning sensation in my pelvis, and back and neck pain.

"It was terrifying. There was blood all over the floor because it was pouring out of their legs in the carriage and dropping down. The doctors and firemen were covered in blood as they scaled the scaffolding to treat the guys on the front row."

The four people who suffered critical injuries were airlifted to major trauma centres after the 16 occupants were rescued from 25ft in the air at an angle of about 45 degrees.

Some of the occupants suffered an ordeal which lasted more than four hours, with the evacuation not complete until 6.35pm.

Since opening two years ago, the £18 million rollercoaster, which boasts a world-record 14 loops, has been closed twice because of safety concerns.

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