Alton Towers Safety 'Not Adequate'

5 June 2015, 15:45 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50

A theme parks boss has said safety measures ``were not adequate'' at Alton Towers and defended the decision to close a number of other rides following an accident which resulted in four serious injuries.

Nick Varney, chief executive of Merlin Entertainments which runs the Staffordshire visitor attraction, said the group was adding ``another layer'' of safety measures to existing rides as a ``precaution'' against the prospect of another accident.

Alton Towers has been closed since the record-breaking Smiler ride came to an abrupt halt when two carriages collided, injuring 16 people, on Tuesday.

Today, bosses announced it had temporarily shut another Alton Towers ride, Saw, a similar rollercoaster at its Thorpe Park site, and two rides at Chessington World of Adventures - both in Surrey - to ``reinforce the safe operation'' of the attractions.

Mr Varney declined to comment on reports at least one of the passengers lost a leg following the crash when he appeared on Sky News.

He said ``a rather unique set of circumstances (might) have played a contributory factor in the Smiler accident'' and said his team was doing ``everything'' to help those affected.

He told Sky News: ``What we have done today is put in another level of additional safety measures across all of our parks that operate these types of rides. All of them - bar two - have been able to implement those new procedures today.

``The two rides at Chessington that are currently suspended will take a few days before we can make the technical and training adjustments to bring them up to the new level of safety protocol - it doesn't mean they were not safe before.

``I think we have had very rigorous protocols across all our attractions. We have had the first - and I hope only accident - in one of our theme parks. We have to make sure that doesn't happen again.

``(Safety measures) clearly weren't adequate on Smiler, because the accident happened. We have taken steps to upgrade safety standards from what were already very stringent safety standards.

``I want to be able to look everybody in the eye and promise them when they come to our parks and get on our rides that they are safe.''

The four people who suffered critical injuries were airlifted to major trauma centres after the 16 occupants were rescued from 25ft (7.6m) in the air at an angle of about 45 degrees.

The most seriously injured have been named as Daniel Thorpe, a 27-year-old hotel assistant manager from Buxton in Derbyshire, Vicky Balch, 19, from Leyland in Lancashire, textile design student Joe Pugh, 18, from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, and his girlfriend, Leah Washington, 17.

Some of the occupants suffered an ordeal that lasted more than four hours, with the evacuation not complete until 6.35pm.

The park is reckoned to be racking up losses of around £500,000 a day since the incident and it has also faced accusations staff dithered for 10 minutes before making the first 999 call, despite screams of distress from bloodied passengers on board Smiler.

Bosses today said Alton Towers is to re-open ``within the next few days'' but the ride involved in the crash will remain shut for the foreseeable future.

Since opening two years ago, the £18 million rollercoaster, which boasts a world-record 14 loops, has been closed twice because of safety concerns.