Alton Towers Resort and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are continuing their investigations into the incident which occurred on The Smiler last Tuesday (2nd June).

The park has remained closed since the incident, which involved a train carrying sixteen people colliding with a stalled empty train on the batwing element of the ride causing what have been described as ‘life changing injuries’ to four people, and is set to remain closed on Saturday (6th June). There is currently no time-frame for when the park will re-open, however a statement from Merlin Entertainments today says the park could re-open ‘in the next few days’.

Alton Towers Resort has been working alongside the HSE to establish the cause of Tuesday’s incident and the HSE have confirmed that they are in the process of removing the two trains involved to transport them to their Buxton laboratory for further analysis, and have served a prohibition notice on The Smiler, preventing the ride from operating until the HSE deem it is safe to do so. In a statement issued earlier today the HSE said:

“HSE will today remove the carriages involved in the incident on ‘The Smiler’ rollercoaster on 2 June and transport them to the Health and Safety Laboratory in Buxton for further analysis.

The investigation into the incident continues and HSE inspectors remain on site. They have served a Prohibition notice on the rollercoaster stopping its use until action is taken to deal with the cause of the failure.

Neil Craig, Head of Operations for HSE in the Midlands said:

“The Notice is specific to the ‘Smiler’ ride and does not affect other rides at the park. HSE expects the park operator to apply any early learning from the incident to wider risk management at the site.

“The decision about when to re-open the Park is for the owners to make.

Alongside the investigation being carried out by the HSE, there has also been a wider review into operations which has seen the closure of SAW – The Ride at THORPE PARK Resort, and Dragon’s Fury and Rattlesnake at Chessington World of Adventures Resort. Merlin Entertainments have stated that Saw will remain closed for the foreseeable future as it is constructed by the same manufacturer as The Smiler, whilst Dragon’s Fury and Rattlesnake are closed to allow for updates to enable the implementation of new safety protocols. There will also be the implementation of a range enhanced safety protocols across Merlin’s multi-car rollercoasters. The full statement issued by Merlin Entertainments is as follows:

“Since the accident at Alton Towers Resort on Tuesday afternoon Merlin Entertainments has been engaged in a thorough review and investigation of the events that led up to the incident and of its safety and operating processes. The investigation is ongoing and we are co-operating fully with the Health & Safety Executive.

The safety of our visitors is our fundamental priority. We have a strong safety record at Alton Towers and across the Merlin Group. Today we are enhancing our safety standards by issuing an additional set of safety protocols and procedures that will reinforce the safe operation of our multi-car rollercoasters. These are effective immediately.

Each rollercoaster has its own individual operating process and characteristics. Our central safety management team, together with local Park operations, will now work to implement and brief operating staff on these protocols. As a consequence, two rollercoaster rides have been withdrawn from service until the new safety protocols have been applied.

The Smiler and Saw, a similar ride at Thorpe Park, have been closed since the accident and will stay closed for the foreseeable future. We intend to complete our thorough appraisal of our safety processes at Alton Towers in the near future and plan to re-open the Park to the public in the next few days.

Nick Varney, Chief Executive of Merlin Entertainments, said:

“This has been a terrible experience for everyone involved and one we sincerely regret. Our thoughts remain with those who were seriously injured and we are doing everything we can to support them through this difficult time. It is an accident that should not have happened, and we are determined that it will never happen again.

“Whilst the investigation into the causes is continuing, we have identified a series of additional safety protocols that we are implementing immediately across our multi-car rollercoasters. These will act as an additional safeguard to further strengthen our operating and safety standards. This has been a devastating experience, and we are committed to learning the lessons from it.”

There were reports earlier in the week that the park took eleven minutes to call emergency services. In a statement the Resort confirmed that ride staff initially called the Resort’s Community First Responders, who are trained by West Midlands Ambulance Service, and they arrived within minutes. After an initial assessment they then called emergency services. Despite these reports, West Midlands Ambulance Service have stated that at no point was patient care compromised.

Alton Towers Resort are currently issuing updates on a day by day basis, directing guests to check their social media outlets and website for updates. A FAQ page has been set up to help those with tickets and hotel bookings quickly find what options they have. Currently, those with tickets for days which the park has been closed have either been able to use them at any of Merlin’s other theme parks, have them revalidated for another date prior to 16th October, or receive a refund. Those with hotel stays booked who do not wish to continue with their stay can either receive a refund, or move their booking to a future date.

Our thoughts remain with all those affected by this dreadful incident. TowersTimes will continue to keep you up to date with the latest information in relation to this story.
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