Alton Towers' Smiler trains collide, at least four serious injuries

Posted | Contributed by Raven-Phile

Four teenagers have been seriously hurt in a crash between two carriages on a rollercoaster ride at Alton Towers. Sixteen people were in one carriage of the Smiler ride; the other was empty.

Read more from: The BBC, The Irish Times, Sky News.

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Jeff's avatar

Someone shot video and posted it to Twitter immediately after... language NSFW, though the injuries are at least not visually obvious.

I can't imagine any condition where this would happen unless the ride was running in some kind of manual mode. It's also weird from the standpoint that the stationary car appears to not be impeded by anything that would have caused it to valley (short of being empty).

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It's also kind of strange how far into the course this happened... That is to say, it's after the first lift hill which means it would have had to pass 2 blocks between exiting the station and getting there... since there's a hard brake/stop right before the 2nd lift hill, you'd think there'd be something in place to stop this from happening.

Rick_UK's avatar

A very sad day for the industry, thank goodness the second train was empty, that could have been a very different story.

It had *apparently* just recovered from a period of down time (it's always breaking down). It could well be there was some manual operation going on, rightly or wrongly.

Trains stall in that area of the track on quite a regular basis.

Last edited by Rick_UK,

Nothing to see here. Move along.

My first thought was "maintenance mode" as well. Depending on the ride, all you have to do is forget to turn a key and you'll have passengers riding while all the safety systems are disabled. This type of thing isn't unheard of though usually it's caught before a disaster of this magnitude had occurred.

Yes, there had to had been some kind of manual override done for this to happen. Not placing any blame per say, but this a BAD for Alton. Very bad.

Prayers out to the victims. : /

There were some eyewitness accounts on British Messageboards that stated the train was stalled for 10 min on the lifthill before being released.(not confirmed)

Very strange that something like this could happen these days.

Jeff's avatar

I haven't been able to find any updates on the condition of the passengers. I'm trying to be optimistic that, since the two trains rolled freely after the crash, that it wasn't hard enough to derail one of them, and therefore not potentially fatal, but there isn't enough information to go on.

For people who have operated roller coasters before, when the ride is returned to automatic mode, presumably there is no way it can know how many trains are on the track, right? In such a case, it's simple enough to see if you have all three trains if that's all you have, but this presumably has a bunch. Also makes you wonder if they would have proximity switches in valleys to look for trains too.

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Jeff's avatar

The BBC article has been updated, and refers to "significant lower limb injuries." That sounds as if the people in the front row had their legs crushed. That's awful.

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rollergator's avatar

Given the (empty) front train that had stalled got rear-ended by a passenger-carrying train, I find the idea of "maintenance mode" or something similar highly feasible. Blocking should have prevented this under "normal operations."

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here is latest caught on tape vid

Last edited by andeejay,

If you look at the video. Its the two trains wedged together with the floor area and handrail missing. No doubt serious leg injuries although i don't know for sure. Im betting he ones not hurt could possibly be feeling effects like whiplash and possibly back/neck injuries within the next couple days. I had a rear ender accident many years ago where the whiplash didn't show up till the third day after and upon further xrays I had a C-6 spine fracture.

Thoughts and prayers to everyone involved. I can't imagine how this could have happened and I can't imagine a ride being allowed to operate "With Passengers" other than maintenance under a manual setting.

bjames's avatar

Yeah the guy filming the video said it came down "at full speed." So likely once the empty train vallied, it rolled back and forth a few times before the passengers' train came down from that hill and rammed right into it. You can see in the video where the trains are wedged together and there does not look like much space between the back of the empty train and the seats of the passenger train, they're nearly flush. Those people's legs have got to be absolutely flattened. What a disaster this ride is.

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This is horrific. I can't even imagine the fear of seeing the other car and knowing you're going to hit at full speed. My thoughts are with everyone on the ride.

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Since it was in the middle of the batwing, It has to be traveling a good clip to crest the next inversion. and the other train was sitting or rocking there when it hit.

Im doubting anyone really had time to see what was coming You invert and drop. Bam!

Raven-Phile's avatar

Absolutely terrifying. That guy yelling "stop the ---- ride!" is as real and chilling as it gets. This ride seems to have a little bit of a history.

Charles Nungester said:

No doubt serious leg injuries although i don't know for sure. Im betting he ones not hurt could possibly be feeling effects like whiplash and possibly back/neck injuries within the next couple days.

Those two sentences make make my head hurt.

I too am guessing some sort of maintenance mode could have caused this, as the chance of multiple prox failures seems extremely unlikely.

I also read a report on a poor performance history on this ride, which is manufactured by Gerstlauer. I wonder if we will see any of the US rides shut down while they determine the cause?

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CarolinaNick15's avatar

This is going to be like NTG all over again. Gerstlaur is going to blame the ride ops while the park is going to blame Gerstlaur. I can see the ride being closed for quite some time. This is terrible. I feel bad for the people who were in the train. I always think of accidents happening on old Rickety rides at a state fair, but this goes to show that even some world famous record breaker can have serious accidents. Last thing I was expecting in the industry today.

Pete's avatar

What is strange, at least as I can see from the video, is that the train doesn't seem to have any type of bumper tied to the frame. On every B&M train I've seen, and I think Intamin also, there is a heavy duty bumper tied directly to the frame of the car that would prevent legs and other body parts from being crushed in a collision. It is strange that the trains on this ride do not seem to have this.

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