A “metallic clank” like a screw coming loose was heard by people riding on an Alton Towers rollercoaster hours before 16 people were injured when the ride crashed into a stationary carriage.
The £18m Smiler ride, which has 14 loops, more than any other ride in the world, was being investigated by Health and Safety Executive officials. Four people were left with serious leg injuries after the accident. The Staffordshire attraction has been closed indefinitely.
A person who was on the ride with their two daughters told ITV News they heard an alarming noise on the first loop and then “just had to ride in panic”.
“We went upside down and heard something come loose,” the person, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “It sounded like something had fallen off, like a screw had come loose, that kind of metallic clank. ... We heard it through about the next three loops, and then there was no more of it. I think it had flown off the carriage completely.
“I told one of the women who strap you in. And she said ‘OK, I’ll pass [that] on.’”
Three hours later the ride crashed. Joe Pugh, a student at the University of Huddersfield, and his girlfriend Leah Washington were among those hurt, but the extent of their injuries has not been made public.
Nick Varney, chief executive of Merlin Entertainments, which runs Alton Towers, said the Smiler was “a relatively new ride”, adding: “All rides have teething problems when they open.”
Mr Varney told BBC News that a failsafe mechanism had failed as the two carriages “should not have been on the same piece of track”.
“There are other braking locks that should stop two cars being on the same track, but that didn’t work the way it was supposed to,” he said.
The rollercoaster has been closed twice because of safety concerns since opening two years ago. In July 2013 it was shut after reports that a bolt was seen to have fallen from the ride; and in November that year the rollercoaster was closed again after plastic guard wheels came loose and hit front-row riders.Reuse content