Victims of Alton Towers Smiler accident speak out

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

One of the victims of the horrific Alton Towers rollercoaster crash has spoken for the first time. Joe was on the front row of The Smiler with his girlfriend Leah Washington when it smashed into another carriage and injured both of them. Next to them were a couple, aged 19 and 27, who also suffered serious leg injuries when carriages collided on The Smiler ride at the Staffordshire park.

Read more from The Mirror.

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Raven-Phile's avatar

Oh my. 3 of the 4 suffered from "life-changing injuries".

janfrederick's avatar

This is so sad, and so preventable. I, along with everybody following this story I'm sure, am very curious as to how this happened.

"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza
DavidW's avatar

This story has a few more details on the other 2.

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No trees were harmed in the sending of this message, but a large number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.

Keeping the park closed for an indefinite amount of time is certainly unprecedented. I can't think of other instances of a park taking such a drastic action, even when more serious innocents occur such as those resulting in deaths.

Rick_UK's avatar

^^ I think logistically it makes sense to close the park on what are essentially quite quiet weekdays. Despite the fact, because the park is so bitty (divided into areas with not a lot in-between), it would be fairly easy to open the park, keeping X Sector closed.

Also, if you've been to Alton Towers (or any Merlin park), you'll know how brand heavy they are - I think these few days will give them the opportunity to strip the park of all Smiler based stuff, remove the ride vehicles and review park-wide procedures (based on what they know about what happened already).

In terms of the scale of the incident, unless you live in the UK, it's perhaps not apparent how much of a thing Alton Towers is in the UK, its physical location means that its appeal is very much nationwide and I would suggest it comes second to none in terms of what the public perceive as our national theme park, if I may call it that.

The events of Tuesday are still ranking high on several news outlet websites, the BBC had three stories relating to the accident on its front page today - it's such a big deal and has been thrown into conversation at almost any opportunity, without me prompting it. Also, the problems the ride has had previously certainly have added another layer to the whole thing.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

bjames's avatar

I was surprised they closed the whole park down, that seems like a little bit of an over-the-top response. Looks like they're thinking of scrapping the ride altogether, which is a shame because of how large of an investment it was.

"The term is 'amusement park.' An old Earth name for a place where people could go to see and do all sorts of fascinating things." -Spock, Stardate 3025

Add in the amount that the park is going to pay out in lawsuits James and then see how expensive the ride was...

Last edited by SVLFever,
Fever I really enjoy the Simpsons. It's just a shame that I am starting to LOOK like Homer.

As in the grand tradition of show business, I might look for an eventual re-open.
Now, it may take a season (or two), a re-theme, a new and different set of trains, and maybe even a revised course. But if they're so invested they may do what they can to squash the reputation of "killer coaster" (See? It's all forgotten...) and turn it into something people would climb aboard again.

It's a challenge, though, even with the assured assistance of Gerstlauer. Look what happened with Battlestar Galactica in Singapore. I don't think anybody lost any limbs over there, but with time and effort (especially time) the ride is attracting visitors again. And not without every single article starting with the history of the beleaguered ride, then interviews with riders about how they felt.

Even though this accident will always be Smiler's story, I'd bet a dollar they don't take it down.

ApolloAndy's avatar

NTG appears to be attracting crowds like it did before the accident and all they changed was an added seat belt and some signs.

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

OhioStater's avatar

That may be true, but this accident is different. Right or wrong, I think a lot of people categorize the NTG incident as "well she was too big to ride to begin with...that's not me", and do not necessarily completely place blame on the park, the operators, or the ride itself. That is, if you see yourself as significantly different than the victim and do not completely blame the machine, the NTG incident is an absolutely anomaly that could never happen to you. Let's all go ride.

In this case, it could have been anyone, and absolutely no responsibility can be placed on the innocent victims. All of us could have been those people regardless of who we are, what we know, or what we look like. It's a terrifying thought.

Last edited by OhioStater,

A few interesting tidbits:

-Alton Towers remains closed, and it's estimated they are losing £500,000 per day in revenue.

-4 similar coasters (I believe 1 other at Alton Towers, 2 at Thorpe Park, and 1 at Chessington) have also been shut down by Merlin

-Rumors of scrapping The Smiler

-Park officials acknowledging the rides troubled history... I find this amazing. Not sure how UK law works but here in 'Murica that is setting yourself up for liability. Or maybe they are laying the groundwork to place blame on Gerstlauer?

But then again, what do I know?

Raven-Phile's avatar

I find it interesting when reading people's accounts, they're saying "We saw it was going to hit before it did, but they didn't stop the ride"

I tend to forget that, what seems like basic common sense/knowledge to me - that a ride is powered by gravity and can't be randomly stopped mid-course, isn't how everyone thinks. I've just always known that once you head down the hill, there's no stopping until you reach brakes.

A slightly cautionary word... Take anything you read or see on Sky 'News,' The Sun, The Telegraph or the Daily Mail (especially the Daily Mail, it's not even fit for use as toilet paper) with a large pinch of salt as they're sensationalist, innacurate and scandal mongering at best. In fact pretty much all the UK media have been stoking the fires over this story.

Not much I can really add to what's been said already other than still having a certain sense of total disbelief that this was able to happen even now. I think Merlin have just had an almighty wake-up call and the ripples will be wide reaching across the industry. Merlin did come out the with the following press release earlier this afternoon:

"Merlin Entertainments
The safety of our visitors is our fundamental priority. We have a strong safety record at Alton Towers and across the Merlin Group. Today we are enhancing our safety standards by issuing an additional set of safety protocols and procedures that will reinforce the safe operation of our multi-car rollercoasters. These are effective immediately.
Each rollercoaster has its own individual operating process and characteristics. Our central safety management team, together with local Park operations, will now work to implement and brief operating staff on these protocols. As a consequence, two rollercoaster rides have been withdrawn from service until the new safety protocols have been applied.

Whilst the investigation into the causes is continuing, we have identified a series of additional safety protocols that we are implementing immediately across our multi-car rollercoasters. These will act as an additional safeguard to further strengthen our operating and safety standards. This has been a devastating experience, and we are committed to learning the lessons from it.”

PS - The 'slightly cautionary word' isn't aimed anyone nor a response to any points that have been raised, more just a heads-up to the MO of the UK media (especially those in the gutter)

Last edited by invy,
Vater's avatar

We in the US are not at all familiar with sensationalist media outlets, what is this you speak of?


The UK, alas, is not immune from Tabloid Television. Check this one out...

Well, you know, just in case someone thought we were still all jolly hockeysticks and "my word is my honour old bean!" :D

Carousel Rabbit's avatar

Two rides were closed at Chessington today, in fact: Dragon's Fury (Maurer spinning coaster) and Rattlesnake (Maurer wild mouse). This left only Vampire (and Scorpion Express, if you count powered coasters) open. Unfortunately, today was the day I picked to visit Chessington during a trip to London, so that's how I know.

Rick_UK's avatar

I'm not convinced they will dismantle it, but I think the likelihood of them doing so increased given all the structural and reliability issues that ride has had up until the accident.

Time will tell, of course.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

I doubt it'll get torn down. The worst that could happen is having only one train run on it from now on.

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