Merlin Entertainments to be prosecuted over Alton Towers Smiler crash

The Health and Safety executive (HSE) have confirmed the company will be prosecuted after the accident at Alton Towers last June.

The company will appear at North Staffordshire Justice Centre, Newcastle-under-Lyme on 22 April 2016 to face a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act etc, 1974.

The act states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”

The accident, which occurred on 2 June 2015, saw two trains collide on the batwing element of The Smiler, resulting in two of the ride’s passengers having to undergo leg amputations.

Neil Craig, head of operations for HSE in the Midlands commented:

“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.”

The  prosecution was announced on the same day that Merlin Entertainments revealed their 2015 preliminary results, which reveal that despite challenging trading conditions during the year, a robust financial result was delivered.

Nick Varney, Merlin Entertainments Chief Executive Officer, stated: 2015 has without doubt been the most difficult year in Merlin’s history.

“The accident at Alton Towers in June and the media coverage around it, led to a significant reversal of the strong momentum we had seen in our UK Resort Theme Parks business and consequent impact on overall company performance.

“More importantly, people we had a responsibility to safeguard sustained serious injuries and ride safety processes we believed robust on this occasion proved inadequate.

Our focus since June has therefore necessarily been on ensuring we support those injured in every way we can while putting in place extensive measures to ensure such an accident cannot happen again.

“These measures will be covered in more detail in the Health, Safety and Security (HSS) Committee Report of our 2015 Annual Report and Accounts. In addition, we continue to invest in further improvements to both engineering and health and safety across the estate, including additional compliance managers in all our theme parks and a new Group engineering function.

“This represents a substantial additional investment on top of our already extensive HSS and engineering infrastructure which we must remember has delivered hundreds of millions of safe ride experiences over many years.”

Alton Towers will reopen to the public for the 2016 season on 19 March.