Judgement due in Alton Towers rollercoaster case

Merlin Entertainments faces sentencing this morning after admitting responsibility for failings in the Alton Towers rollercoaster crash which left 16 people injured.

A judge at the sentencing hearing at Stafford Crown Court heard yesterday a barrister prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive describe the Smiler crash as equating to “a family car of 1.5 tons having collided at around 90mph”.

Two teenagers were airlifted to hospital and were forced to have leg amputations after suffering serious injuries in the crash last summer.

The Recorder of Stafford, Judge Michael Chambers QC, said in passing sentence he would consider “not just the impact on those injured, but on those close to them”.

In mitigation for Alton Towers, barrister Simon Antrobus said Merlin’s top executives had accepted responsibility for the crash from the day it happened last June and apologised.

“(The company) accepts its responsibility that this should never have happened and accepted that the accident was attributable to failures that, while they were never intended, would have been avoidable with greater care,” he said.

Antrobus said Merlin ran more than 120 rides on 11 different sites and was “the most reputable operator in this field”.

“It’s a good organisation that made a serious failure, but is one that is of otherwise good character,” he said.

Asked by the judge if anyone had resigned as a result of the crash, he replied: “No.”

Antrobus said Merlin accepted “inconsistency” in staff training was a failure, and that there had been “blind spots” in educating staff.

Merlin admitted charges of breaching the Health and Safety Act in April.

Several safety changes have been made sine the crash, including improved access and a policy of closing the ride when winds exceed 35mph.

The judge is due to pass sentence at 10.30am this morning.