On June 2, four teenagers were seriously injured when The Smiler roller coaster cars traveling 50mph and carrying 16 people, crashed into an empty car at Alton Towers Staffordshire, UK. Two girls and two boys suffered serious injuries to their legs. Eyewitnesses said that the 14-loop roller coaster was broken down for a while previous to the crash and that engineers tested the ride by sending out empty roller coaster cars. There were seven eyewitness accounts that report that an empty car that had been used for testing the roller coaster, was stuck on the tracks before passengers were allowed back on the ride. This means that by all accounts this accident could have been avoided completely.
Ben Richardson, 18, an eyewitness stated that it looked as if The Smiler roller coaster staff sent an empty car onto the track, to test the coaster and it was stuck on the track before the people got into the other roller coaster cars, leading to them colliding into the empty car. Earlier in the day, he had been told that The Smiler roller coaster had been experiencing ‘technical issues’ however, he was able to ride the coaster when the park first opened. After approximately 15 minutes, The Smiler roller coaster was running again. The roller coaster cars carrying people had just come out of an inversion when they were stopped abruptly by the empty car. He reported that there was a lot of crumpled metal due to the high-speed crash.
The quality surveyor from, Swadlincote, Derbyshire said that he was sitting close by and the roller coaster car with people inside it was sent off regardless of the empty car stuck on the track. Everyone remained in the cars when the crash happened, but the quality surveyor stated that, at the least, everyone had severe whiplash.
Another eyewitness, 21, was on the ride 30 minutes before the crash occurred. She said that an empty car went around the loop, but was unable to get all the way around so it fell back down the loop backwards and swung back and forth for a while before the cars of 16 people slammed into the empty one. She said that the crash was horrific and the bang deafening. There was a lot of screaming.
The area was quickly evacuated. Jack Carver, 33, witnessed the aftermath of the roller coaster crash. He said it was like a horror movie soundtrack with all the screaming. Only some of the riders were moving at that point.
An eyewitness, Ellis Dyson, 23, was in line for the ride when the roller coaster crash happened. She said when the coaster cars crashed into the empty car it vibrated the platform of the ride.
Sophie Underwood was waiting in line to ride the roller coaster and told the BBC that the coaster had issues earlier. Many announcements were given to let people know the ride was going to be shut down for repairs. The ride engineers were sending empty cars around the track. Then they announced that the ride was operational again. After the crash happened she was able to see the injured from where she stood.
Radio presenter from Bolton FM, Danny Slim, witnessed the accident and he believed that many on the ride were badly injured. He sent out a tweet saying that people were unconscious and there was a lot of blood. It was a shock to all those who heard the crash and even more so for those on the ride.
Four Air Ambulances with a trauma doctor, rescue trucks, and several paramedics, were on the scene quickly. A spokeswoman said that of the 16 people on board the roller coaster, two teenage boys and girls have serious leg injuries. A platform was put together so emergency personnel could rescue the occupants of the ride who were 25 feet in the air, at a 45-degree angle. The other 12 riders stranded on The Smiler roller coaster have some minor injuries, and it is hopeful that they will be dismissed from the scene. All four severely injured teenagers were airlifted to trauma centers at University Coventry at Warwickshire and Royal and Royal Stroke University Hospital.
A spokesman for Alton Towers said that the park’s fully qualified first-responders were at the scene immediately, and helped with the evacuation to allow for emergency vehicle access. The first responders were also putting together the platform to get to the stranded riders. He also stated that there will be an investigation once the riders were free. The Health and Safety Executive confirmed that an investigation has begun.
A spokesman for the Staffordshire Police states that at 2:45 p.m. police were called concerning the accident at Alton Towers theme park. Officers are at the scene as well as other emergency services and they will be working with the staff from the theme park to deal with the accident. The field trip planned for Bramley Sunnyside Junior School in Rotherham, South Yorkshire to Alton Towers tomorrow has been canceled.
The Smiler roller coaster opened, May 2013, and this is the third time it has had to be shut down for technical issues. It touts that it is the world’s first 14-loop rollercoaster, officially with Guinness World Records, and this is advertised on the park’s website. The ride claims that it features twisted psychological effects, which include “blinding lights, optical illusions, and near-misses to mess with your head.”
In July of 2013, The Smiler coaster was shut down because there were reports that a bolt had fallen from the ride. In November 2013, the roller coaster was closed after the plastic guard wheels had come loose and hit front low riders.
If the coster’s engineers had only paid attention to where the testing cars went and if they had all returned to the platform, there may not be a story to tell. The investigation will hopefully shed more light onto the true condition of the ride and how it will be handled. As the disaster yesterday at Alton Towners Staffordshire, UK, severely injured four teens it is likely that the roller coaster will not be up and running for a while, at least until an investigation in the matter is complete.
By Jeanette Smith
Daily Mail: Alton Towers’ Smiler Rollercoaster carriages collide with 16 people on board
The Mirror: Alton Towers roller coaster crash: Disaster is latest rare incident of injuries and fatalities at UK Theme Parks
The Telegraph: Alton Towers crash: four teenagers seriously hurt as the Smiler ride carriages collide
Photos courtesy of:
Michael Garnett’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Michael Garnett 2’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License