Date set for sentencing of Alton Towers operator over Smiler crash

Date set for sentencing of Alton Towers operator over Smiler crash

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Alton Towers - "The Smiler"

Alton Towers operator Merlin will be sentenced later this year in connection with the Smiler roller coaster crash which left five people seriously injured.

Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd has already admitted a breach of health and safety rules over the incident in June last year, which left two young women needing leg amputations when their carriage hit another stationary car.

During a half-hour hearing at Stafford Crown Court on Tuesday, attended by several of Merlin’s directors, a date was set for the sentencing when the company is expected to receive a hefty fine.

The Recorder of Stafford Judge Michael Chambers QC listed a two-day hearing beginning on Monday September 26 at the same court.

Bernard Thorogood, prosecuting for the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE), told the judge the victims of the crash and their relatives are expected to attend the next hearing and asked if provisions could be made to accommodate them.
He added: “Members of those injured will want to come to the hearing.”

During a previous court hearing in April, victims Vicky Balch and Leah Washington, who each lost a leg in the crash, as well as Joe Pugh, Daniel Thorpe and Chandaben Chauhan attended.

Mr Thorogood said he would also be producing medical evidence charting the “diagnosis and prognosis” of the victims, to show the impact that the crash has had on their lives.

Merlin has already accepted responsibility for the crash after an investigation found a computer block stopping the ride because of the stationary car on the track was over-ridden by staff, causing the collision.

As a result, the full carriage ploughed into the rear of the empty car, leaving those in the front row badly hurt.

Concluding the hearing, Judge Chambers said although there were some differences between Merlin and the HSE, “the thrust of the prosecution case appears to be accepted by the defence”.

He added: “Can we aim to start at 10am on Monday, September 26.”

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