Alton Towers Smiler crash: Nottingham students spark outrage after 'dressing up as victims'

One crash victim described the costume as 'disrespectful' and 'disgusting'

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The Independent Online

A group of students have sparked outrage after dressing up as a roller coaster for a charity pub crawl, purportedly referencing the Alton Towers' Smiler ride crash last year, which resulted in two teenage victims each undergoing a leg amputation.

The group of Nottingham University students, named "7 legless", denied the costume had any relation to the crash after pictures of the outfit were published on student news site The Tab.

One victim, Joe Pugh, who was in the front row of the roller coaster with his girlfriend Leah Washington when it collided into another cart which had come to a halt on the track, described the costume as "disrespectful" and "disgusting".

Nottingham University Students' Union released a statement denying any link between the costume and the crash, but apologised to anyone who was offended.

Miss Washington, then 17, and Vicky Balch, then 18, both had leg amputations following the theme park incident on 2 June 2015. Mr Pugh, Daniel Thorpe and Chandaben Chauhan, who was sitting in the second row, were all seriously injured. Overall, 16 people were injured in the crash.

The original report featuring the costume, however, described how "some of [the group] stuffed old jeans and tied them up to make fake amputated legs".

The university said it is expecting a full report about the incident from the Students' Union.

In a statement the Students' Union said: “The costume was in no way intended to reference the tragedy that occurred on the Smiler roller coaster at Alton Towers.

“Its design was based on a traditional concept that has existed for several years and no reference was being made to the Smiler by the students involved.

“’7 legless’ was intended to be a pun on the name of the bar crawl ‘7 legged’ and the state of being inebriated.

"The article that was published The Tab Nottingham on 19 October 2016, was a misrepresentation.

“The students involved further wish to apologise unreservedly to those affected by the Smiler incident for any offence or distress they may have unwittingly caused."

The deputy editor of the Nottingham Tab claimed the story published about the costume was not a "misrepresentation".

Joseph Archer said he had not spoken to the group to ask what their costume was about, while reporting on event on Monday. "Sadly it was in a very busy bar. I didn't really have a chance to speak to them because there were so many people in the bar wearing different costumes," he said.

The 21-year-old natural sciences student added: "We've heard a lot of excuses but I just reported on what was there and what happened and what they were doing. I don't think it was misrepresentation."

Alton Towers operator Merlin Attractions was fined £5m after admitting health and safety breaches led to the crash.

Judge Michael Chambers QC called the accident a “catastrophic failure” by the company involving basic health and safety measures.

He said the “obvious shambles of what occurred” could have been “easily avoided” by a suitable written system to deal with ride faults and a proper risk assessment

Additional reporting by Press Association