Stoke & Staffordshire

Alton Towers Smiler ride reopens nine months after horror crash

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Media captionAlton Towers visitor: "We couldn't wait to get on it"

A rollercoaster at Alton Towers has reopened nine months after an accident which left five people with serious injuries.

Some of the first people on the Smiler ride cheered and clapped when it moved off, as crowds arrived for the new season at the Staffordshire theme park.

Two women needed amputations after two carriages crashed on the track in June.

The park said it had introduced "additional safety procedures" to the way the ride operates.

Jim Harvey and his 14-year-old son Liam, from Bloxwich, West Midlands, were among the first on the Smiler when it reopened.

'Terribly sad'

Mr Harvey said: "It was fantastic, a bit daunting being first on - my son Liam forced me to sprint to be first.

"After the terribly sad crash, you have to feel really bad for the people that got hurt but hundreds of accidents happen daily on the roads.

"There's not a nice way to say it but accidents happen. Alton Towers have to move on."

Image copyright Jim Harvey
Image caption Jim Harvey and his son Liam took a selfie after going on the ride

Rainbow Serina, 28, from Southend, Essex, who also went on the first Smiler ride, said: "It was great to get back on. The park is busy and people are out in force to support Alton Towers and show that we're absolutely happy to ride, we know it's safe and we trust the park.

"What happened last year was awful and should never have occurred but we know it was a human error and measures have been taken to ensure the same mistake is never made again."

However, some of the people injured in the crash last June have said they wished the ride would remain closed.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Alton Towers closed for four days after last June's accident

Vicky Balch, who along with another passenger, Leah Washington, from Lancashire, had to have a leg amputated, told ITV: "I understand it's a business and it's what they have to do. I just didn't think it'd be so soon. It's only nine months, it's not a very long time."

"It feels like the money comes before the people on the ride."

Joe Pugh, of Barnsley, South Yorkshire, Daniel Thorpe, from Buxton, Derbyshire, and Chandaben Chauhan, from Wednesbury, West Midlands, were also seriously injured.

In total 16 people were hurt in the incident, which park owner Merlin Entertainments said was due to human error.

BBC reporter Becky Woods, at Alton Towers

Rollercoaster fans arrived at Alton Towers from dawn to be among the first to ride the Smiler.

Hundreds of people queued to get into the park on the first day of the new season but the queues moved quite quickly.

The theme park sent empty carriages around the Smiler before allowing members of the public on.

Its first riders cheered and clapped as the ride was started.

Many visitors headed straight for the Smiler - although the queue for it remains relatively short.

Smiler riders voice support for theme park

Alton Towers said the safety of its guests and employees must always be paramount and that the Smiler ride been re-examined and issued with a document of compliance before reopening.

"The park has implemented a number of changes to the way the ride is operated, including enhanced training and additional safety procedures," a statement said.

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption (Left to right) Daniel Thorpe, Vicky Balch, Joe Pugh and Leah Washington were among those seriously injured

The Health and Safety Executive is prosecuting Merlin Entertainments over the crash and the company is due in court next month.

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