Alton Towers operator charged over Smiler crash

The Smiler

Alton Towers operator Merlin Entertainments has been charged over the Smiler rollercoaster accident which seriously injured five people last year.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had been widely expected to prosecute following the 2 June accident, which led to two people suffering leg amputations.

A charge is being made for “breaching health and safety law”, namely the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Merlin Attractions Operation Ltd will appear at North Staffordshire Justice Centre on 22 April, where it is expected to plead guilty to the charge.

‘Life-changing consequences’

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.”

An investigation by Merlin concluded that ‘human error’ led to the collision, in which a train laden with 16 people crashed into an empty stationary vehicle.

However, the HSE is expected to cite Alton Towers’ procedural failures in its prosecution, as it indicated in the initial prohibition notice served on the Smiler ride in the crash aftermath.

The notice read: “You have failed to prevent cars on the ride from colliding, which has resulted in serious injuries to members of the public.”

Alton Towers has stated that it will reopen the Smiler ride later this year, but has not yet named a specific date.