Alton Towers crash: Theme park owners Merlin Entertainments accept full responsibility for rollercoaster crash


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The Independent Online

Lawyers for  three of the four people seriously injured in the Alton Towers rollercoaster crash have welcomed the admission of liability from Merlin Entertainments.

The British company, which owns and operates the Staffordshire theme park, said it accepted full responsibility for last week’s crash and said it would provide compensation “swiftly and sensitively” to all 16 victims.

As it emerged that a 17-year-old who was among those hurt has had part of her leg amputated, lawyers for her and two others said they would be meeting the owners of Alton Towers this week to discuss the release of money.

Leah Washington had her left leg amputated above the knee, University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS trust said on Monday. Washington also fractured her hand in the crash on the Smiler ride last Tuesday. Her boyfriend, Joe Pugh, sustained two broken knees and extensive hand injuries in the crash, the hospital said.

The third victim, 20-year-old Vicky Balch, remained in a serious but stable condition. Earlier reports had said both her legs were crushed in the accident.


We are deeply saddened by the news about Leah and all our thoughts are with her and her family. We cannot undo the events of last week but everyone in the company and at Alton Towers is determined to do all we can to provide appropriate support to those who were injured and their families,” Merlin Chief Executive Nick Varney said in a statement.

Shares in Merlin Entertainments have fallen four per cent in a week on reports that it was losing £500,000 pounds a day while the park was shut. But experts suggest compensation claims and subsequent legal bills could run into millions of pounds as damages are sought for one of the worst theme park accidents in recent history.

Ms Washington’s father issued a statement in which he said: “Leah has suffered a life-changing injury and now has many months of rehabilitation ahead of her. We would like to thank all the emergency services at the scene and all the hospital staff who saved Leah’s life.”

Paul Paxton, head of Personal Injury at Stewarts Law, representing the three families, said: "I will be meeting with the solicitors acting for Merlin and its insurers this week to discuss the early release of money to assist with financial hardship and rehabilitation."

Thrill-seekers queued to enter as the premises reopened on Monday. Among those visiting were Nina Lancaster and Daniella Dobson who took their 15-year-old daughters to the venue because they thought “today would be the safest day”.