An engineer ‘felt pressure’ to get the Smiler rollercoaster ride back into service after it developed a fault – shortly before a collision between two carriages left five injured.
Two teenage girls – Vicky Balch and Leah Washington – both lost a leg in the crash and were in court as the sentencing hearing started on September 26.
Several other people were trapped for hours on the ride and suffered serious injuries.
Alton Towers operator Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd admit a health and safety breach.
Bonuses linked to ride’s ‘downtime’
Prosecutor Bernard Thorogood made repeated references to a report compiled by consultant Stephen Flanagan, who inspected fairground rides and amusement parks for the Health and Safety Executive.
In the document, Mr Flanagan said: “It is clear that his (one of the engineer’s) priority had become getting the ride quickly back into service, and he felt pressure to that effect.”
An engineer who looked at the £18million ride during a fault believed the ride only had four carriages on the track.
The rollercoaster actually had five carriages operating and the engineer did not notice an empty carriage.
The expert witness report also states management at Alton Towers set targets for staff for the length of time rides were out of service.
Bonuses were then linked to staff achieving low levels of this “downtime”.
Mr Flanagan said: “The evidence provided to me also indicates that management had set targets for downtime on rides, with bonuses linked to achieving acceptably low levels. There were also clocks in the ride control cabins showing the current performance on downtime.
Merlin Attractions fined
The report was submitted to Stafford Crown Court as the theme park’s owners Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd were sentenced to a multimillion-pound fine over the collision.
The firm has been fined £5million with costs of £69,955.40.
The court was told that since the crash, Alton Towers has instituted 30 changes to improve the safety of the ride.
Source: BBC News
Date Published: October 13, 2016
Author: Jonathan Brown