£5m fine for Alton Towers crash

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14 Oct 2016

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The owners of Alton Towers, Merlin, have been fined £5 million with costs of £69,955.40 following the June 2015 rollercoaster crash which left 16 people injured, a number of them seriously, including two young women who suffered leg amputations.

Stafford Crown Court heard that on the day of the incident, when the Smiler ride collided with a stationary carriage on the same track, engineers overrode the ride’s control system without the knowledge and understanding to ensure it was safe to do so. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found no fault with the track, the cars, or the control system that keeps the cars apart from each other when the ride is running. Rather, investigators found the root cause to be a lack of detailed, robust arrangements for making safety-critical decisions. The whole system, from training through to fixing faults, was not strong enough to stop a series of errors by staff when working with people on the ride. Following the incident, Alton Towers has made technical improvements to the ride and changed their systems. Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd of Poole, Dorset, pleaded guilty to breaching s.3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 which covers the duty of every employer to conduct the undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that affected non-employees are not exposed to risks to their health or safety. The company was fined £5 million with costs of £69,955.40. This reflects a 30% reduction due to the early guilty plea. Compensation packages for the injured have yet to be determined. Commenting on the case, Neil Craig, Head of Operations for HSE in the Midlands said, "This avoidable incident happened because Merlin failed to put in place systems to allow engineers to work safely on the ride while it was running. This made it all too easy for a whole series of unchecked mistakes, not just one push of a button, to result in tragic consequences. Since the incident Alton Towers have made improvements to the ride and their safety protocols, and the lessons learned have been shared industry wide."

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