Clinical Negligence & Catastrophic Injury Solicitors
Alton Towers owner admits responsibility for Smiler crash.
The owner of theme park Alton Towers has been told it faces a large fine after admitting responsibility for the Smiler rollercoaster crash in June last year (2015) after which two people needed leg amputations.
Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd admitted charges of breaching the Health and Safety Act.
The company’s counsel, Simon Antrobus, said it accepted it could have taken additional safety measures on the day.
In total, 16 people were hurt when a carriage on the ride crashed into another static car on the track.
District Judge, John McGarva, sitting at North Staffordshire Justice Centre, said the incident was a very serious case which led to life-changing injuries.
He warned the firm it "may be ordered to pay a very large fine" when it is sentenced at Stafford Crown Court.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said that, while the ride was mechanically safe, there were not systems in place to tell staff when a static train was still on the tracks.
The court heard that a static train was shown on the computer but a member of staff did not see it and overrode the system.
Merlin had previously admitted responsibility for the crash after carrying out an internal investigation into the incident.
Head of personal injury at Stewarts Law, Paul Paxton, who represents eight victims, said the guilty plea was a milestone for his clients who were not motivated by retribution.
He said: “It is comforting for the families that a guilty plea has been entered rather than the victims having to endure a drawn out trial. Regrettably, the physical recovery will be a lifelong process."
HSE head of operations in the Midlands, Neil Craig, also welcomed the guilty plea. "The incident was profoundly distressing for everyone involved, both physically and mentally" he said.
A spokesman for Merlin said the company took responsibility for the crash and co-operated fully with the HSE from the start of the investigation.
The spokesman added: "We have sought to provide help and support to all those injured in the accident and will continue to do so."