Alton Towers pleads guilty to Smiler charges

Smiler train impact damage

Alton Towers operator Merlin Entertainments has pleaded guilty to charges following the Smiler rollercoaster crash last year.

16 people were injured – five seriously – when a fully-laden train collided with a stalled vehicle on 2 June.

Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd today admitted failings under the Health and Safety At Work Act.

The hearing, which took place at North Staffordshire Justice Centre, was attended by the five most seriously injured victims and their families.

Two women required leg amputations following the accident, and another suffered severe internal injuries requiring surgery.

District Judge John McGarva said the incident was a “very serious case” which led to life-changing injuries.

He warned that Merlin “may be ordered to pay a very large fine” when the company is sentenced at Stafford Crown Court at a later date.

‘Failed in legal duty’

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), who conducted an investigation after the crash, and who has brought charges against Merlin, said it welcomed the company’s guilty plea.

“Merlin has acknowledged that it failed in its legal duty to protect people on the Smiler ride,” HSE head of operations in the Midlands Neil Craig said.

“Those injured on 2 June last year had every right to expect a carefree and fun day out.

“The incident was profoundly distressing for everyone involved, both physically and mentally. It left some with life changing injuries.

“We hope this first milestone will help those affected to continue their recovery from this tragic incident,” Craig added.

The HSE has released a number of images showing the considerable impact damage sustained by the Smiler’s trains as a result of the collision.

The Smiler reopened to the public along with the rest of Alton Towers as it began its 2016 season on 19 March.

Merlin’s guilty plea comes following company’s internal investigation identifying “human error” as the cause of the accident, for which it said it took full responsibility.