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As the first insurance payments are made to the victims of the Alton Towers crash, lawyers acting for some of the injured have said The Smiler ride may never open again.

Law firm Stewarts Law announced the payouts, which it said will help with the rehabilitation of its clients – Joe Pugh, Victoria Balch and Leah Washington and five others affected by the crash earlier this month.

The firm also signalled this could be the end of the road for the £18m ride – which has been dogged by various safety and technical problems since it opened in May 2013.

After a meeting with the Health and Safety Inspectorate, Paul Paxton of Stewarts Law, said: “The ride is likely to remain closed for a significant period of time; indeed it may never open again. The families are reassured that every angle is being thoroughly covered.”

Mr Paxton, head of personal injury at the firm, added: “The families are satisfied that no expense is being spared in the investigation into what caused the accident on the Smiler ride at Alton Towers. The Health and Safety Inspectorate made it clear that the requisite multidisciplinary expertise was in place.”

The theme park was closed for six days after two carriages collided on the ride on 2 June. It resulted in 16 people being left suspended above the ground as emergency services tried to free them. Four people were seriously injured.

Miss Washington, 17, had a leg amputated after the disaster. She could receive several million pounds in compensation, lawyers say.

Payouts will also be made to her boyfriend Mr Pugh, whose kneecaps shattered in the collision and Miss Balch who underwent surgery for significant leg injuries.