Friday, 22 April 2016

A judge warns park owners Merlin it faces a "very large fine" after the crash left five people with serious injuries.
13:17, UK,Friday 22 April 2016
The owner of Alton Towers has pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety rules after a rollercoaster crash - and now faces a "very large fine".
Two people had legs amputated after the collision on the Smiler ride in June last year, while three others suffered life-changing injuries.
The five victims all attended court to hear Merlin Attractions Ltd indicated a guilty plea to a charge of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Details of the crash and what went wrong were also revealed to the court. 
Vicky Balch, Leah Washington (C) and Joe Pugh
Bernard Thorogood, for the Health and Safety Executive, said its case was that the ride's operatives "overrode" the controlling computer system.
In doing so, they failed to spot a stationary train on the track, sending another crashing into it. 
Paul Paxton
Merlin's counsel Simon Antrobus said: "The company is accepting additional reasonable and practicable measures could have been taken to guard against the safety risk that arose on the day."
The carriage the injured riders were in collided with a stationary car on the ride.
District Judge Jack McGarva, sitting at North Staffordshire justice centre, warned that the company "may be ordered to pay a very large fine".
He ordered the case be moved to Stafford Crown Court for sentencing, on a date to be fixed, due to the gravity of the offence. 
Speaking outside the court, a lawyer for the victims said the guilty plea was "a milestone along the way to psychological rehabilitation". 
Paul Paxton said: "Given that such serious injuries could be sustained on a fun day out, it is hardly surprising that a criminal offence was committed.
screengrab of smiler ride from Alton Towers footage
"However, it is comforting for the families that a plea of guilty has been entered rather than the victims having to endure a drawn out trial. 
"Today is not seen as a victory; the families are not motivated by retribution, but inevitably this guilty plea will be a milestone along the way to psychological rehabilitation. 
"Regrettably the physical recovery will be a lifelong process."
The guilty plea comes after an internal investigation by Merlin had already seen the company accept responsibility for the crash.
Alton Towers reopened the Smiler ride last month - nine months after the accident.
The Staffordshire theme park had earlier said it had "sought to learn every possible lesson to help ensure there is no repeat of what happened".
Witness Of Alton Towers Crash
Two teenage passengers - Vicky Balch and Leah Washington - each lost a leg in the aftermath of the accident.
Their carriage collided with a stationary car on the ride.
Miss Washington's boyfriend, Joe Pugh, broke both knees and endured extensive hand injuries,
Daniel Thorpe suffered a fractured leg and a punctured lung, and mother-of-two Chanda Singh suffered internal bleeding.
More follows...