Alton Towers owner to be prosecuted over Smiler crash that injured five

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The Independent Online

The owner of Alton Towers is to be prosecuted over the rollercoaster accident in which five people were injured, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced.

The crash on the Smiler ride on 2 June last year saw two women, Victoria Balch and Leah Washington, forced to have legs amputated.

After an investigation, operator Merlin Entertainment said the crash, which saw a carriage carrying 16 people crash into an empty carriage on the track, was the result of "human error".

On Thursday morning, the HSE issued a statement saying Merlin would appear at the North Staffordshire Justice Centre in April on a charge of breaching health and safety law.

Neil Craig, head of operations for HSE in the Midlands said: "This was a serious incident with life-changing consequences for five people.

"We have conducted a very thorough investigation and consider that there is sufficient evidence and that it is in the public interest to bring a prosecution."

The accident, which saw three other people seriously injured, saw a sharp fall in visitor numbers to the theme park.

Despite that, and a four-day shut down of the park as a whole while the crash was investigated, Merlin Entertainments recorded a slight increase in annual profits in the year to 26 December.

A spokesperson for Merlin Entertainments told The Independent: “We have cooperated fully with the HSE throughout their investigation while continuing to support those who were injured in the accident. The company completed its own investigation and published the results in November, accepting responsibility for what happened. We have also kept the HSE fully informed of the subsequent actions that we have taken to ensure that something like this cannot happen again.”