Alton Towers owner Merlin faces prosecution over Smiler accident

Responding to the announcement that the Health & Safety Executive will be prosecuting Alton Towers over last year’s crash on the Smiler roller coaster that left five people seriously injured, a spokesperson for the theme park said: “We have cooperated fully with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) throughout their investigation while continuing to support those who were injured in the accident.

“The company completed its own investigation and published the results in November, accepting responsibility for what happened. We have also kept the HSE fully informed of the subsequent actions that we have taken to ensure that something like this cannot happen again.”

Neil Craig, head of operations for HSE in the Midlands said: “This was a serious incident with life-changing consequences for five people.

“We have conducted a very thorough investigation and consider that there is sufficient evidence and that it is in the public interest to bring a prosecution.”

Alton Towers’ owners Merlin Attractions Operation Ltd will appear at North Staffordshire Justice Centre in April to face a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Merlin’s chief executive Nick Varney had earlier admitted the crash had meant 2015 was “the most difficult year” in the company’s history and had affected financial results.

He said: “The accident at Alton Towers in June and the media coverage around it, led to a significant reversal of the strong momentum we had seen in our UK resort theme parks business and consequent impact on overall company performance.

“More importantly, people we had a responsibility to safeguard sustained serious injuries and ride safety processes we believed robust on this occasion proved inadequate. Our focus since June has therefore necessarily been on ensuring we support those injured in every way we can while putting in place extensive measures to ensure such an accident cannot happen again.”

Varney confirmed further investment in engineering and health and safety, which includes the appointment of additional compliance managers in all of its theme parks and a new group engineering function.

Revenues in Merlin’s resort theme park division, which includes Alton Towers, fell 12.4% on a like-for-like basis for the 52 weeks to 26 December 26, 2015.

The company has been increasingly targeting the meetings and events segment and offers special packages at its theme parks for organisers.

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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