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Safety was inadequate, says theme park boss Varney

A theme parks boss has said safety measures "were not adequate" at Alton Towers and defended the decision to close a number of other rides after an accident resulted in four people being seriously injured.

Nick Varney, chief executive of Merlin Entertainments, which runs the Staffordshire visitor attraction, said the group was adding "another layer" of safety measures to existing rides as a "precaution" against the prospect of another accident.

Alton Towers has been closed since the record-breaking Smiler ride came to an abrupt halt when two carriages collided, injuring 16 people, on Tuesday.

Yesterday bosses announced they had temporarily shut another Alton Towers ride, Saw, a similar rollercoaster at its Thorpe Park site, and two rides at Chessington World of Adventures - both in Surrey - to "reinforce the safe operation" of the attractions.

Mr Varney declined to comment on reports that at least one passenger lost a leg after the crash when he appeared on Sky News.

He said "a rather unique set of circumstances (might) have played a contributory factor in the Smiler accident" and said his team was doing "everything" to help those affected.

He said: "What we have done is put in another level of additional safety measures across all of our parks that operate these types of rides. All of them - bar two - have been able to implement those new procedures today.

"(Safety measures) clearly weren't adequate on Smiler, because the accident happened. We have taken steps to upgrade safety standards from what were already very stringent safety standards."

The park is reckoned to be racking up losses of around £500,000 a day since the incident and it has also faced accusations staff dithered for 10 minutes before making the first 999 call, despite screams from bloodied passengers.

Bosses yesterday said that Alton Towers is due to reopen "within the next few days" but the ride involved in the crash will remain shut for the foreseeable future.

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