Today has been the court hearing case for The Smiler incident that occurred June 2015 which left two teenagers needing leg amputations and other victims seriously injured. Merlin Entertainments has been warned that a ‘very large fine’ is to be expected for the serious break in health and safety procedures.
The footage below shows the actual CCTV footage from The Smiler on the day of the crash.
Barrrister Bernard Thorogood, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said the crash equated to “a family car of 1.5 tons having collided at about 90mph”.
On a busy summer day The Smiler was only running on four carriages and thus around midday ride operators added the fifth carriage but at around 13:00 engineers were called as the train had a fault. When tested the empty train failed but engineers pushed it until it engaged with the system, resulting in it being sent off. An engineer said a test carriage had been sent around the 14-loop ride but had failed. Engineers re-set the ride and overrode a computer system “block-stop” which they believed had halted the ride in error, sending a full 16-seater rollercoaster car around the track and into the empty carriage.
Mr Thorogood said that the “fault here is with the employers”, not individuals.
He said the engineers were “without guidance from above”, and had not been given a system to follow to safely deal with the problem on the track. “The fault is with the defendant for not devising a scheme, for not guiding the work of the engineers,” he said.
Among those who attended the first day were Victoria Balch and Leah Washington, who had legs amputated after the crash.
The court heard how there were estimated winds on the day of 45mph. But the manufacturer’s manual said the ride should not be operated at speeds above 34 mph.
Mr Thorogood said the victims were left for a “significant period of time” at least 20ft (6m) above ground, waiting for medical attention because of the inaccessibility of the ride.
He said engineers on the day had not read or seen the operating instructions for the ride.
The Recorder of Stafford, Judge Michael Chambers QC, is set to hear mitigation from Merlin, based in Poole, Dorset, before passing sentence.
In April the operator admitted charges of breaching the Health and Safety Act. An investigation by the park found staff misunderstood a shutdown message and wrongly restarted the ride.
Simon Antrobus, who is representing Merlin Entertainments, says he is at Stafford Crown Court today “to re assert a public apology to those affected”.
He says the company accepts its responsibility “this should never have happened” and the accident was avoidable.
The Recorder of Stafford, Judge Michael Chambers QC says no one doubts the apology is heart felt.
Since the crash, a number of safety changes have been made including improved access and a policy of closing the ride when winds exceed 35mph.