Theme park reopens after crash

Emergency crews battle to free people from the Smiler
Emergency crews battle to free people from the Smiler
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Alton Towers reopened its gates to the public today almost a week after a rollercoaster crash which saw four people badly injured.

As the most seriously hurt - including 20-year-old Vicky Balch from Leyland - continued their recovery in hospital, the theme park’s owner, Merlin Entertainments, says it is committed to ensuring people can visit again “with confidence”.

Sixteen people in total were injured on The Smiler ride last Tuesday when the carriage they were in collided with another that had come to a halt on the track.

Ms Balch suffered potentially life-changing injuries in the crash and is expected to make a “substantial claim for damages” to support her recovery.

Commenting on the latest legal position, Paul Paxton, a partner at Stewarts Law said: “We have contacted the Health and Safety Executive and hope to be able to discuss with Merlin’s insurers and their legal team as early as next week.”

Nick Varney, chief executive of Merlin Entertainments, said the incident was a “terrible event” for everyone involved.

He added: “We are very aware of the impact it will have on those involved and we are doing all we can to provide our support to those injured and their families.

“We closed the park immediately whilst preliminary investigations took place and to give our staff time to come to terms with the accident and its aftermath.

“In recent days our management team have been engaged in a thorough review of our operating and safety procedures before making this decision.”

However, the X-Sector of the Staffordshire theme park - which houses The Smiler - will remain closed until further notice to allow the Health and Safety Executive access to the ride for investigations.

Two rides at other Merlin Entertainments parks, Thorpe Park, and Chessington World of Adventures - both in Surrey - will also remain closed until new safety protocols can be implemented. But these are expected to reopen soon.

Merlin is thought to have racked up losses of around £500,000 a day since the incident and it has also faced accusations staff dithered for 10 minutes before making the first 999 call, despite screams of distress from bloodied passengers on board The Smiler.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has removed the carriages involved in the crash and took them to the Health and Safety Laboratory in Buxton for further analysis.