Merlin Attractions admits health and safety breaches over Alton Towers crash

Catherine Neilan
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Merlin has said the incident was caused by human error (Source: Getty)

Executives from Alton Towers parent company has admitted breaching health and safety laws over the rollercoaster crash last year.

Merlin Attractions Operations has pleaded guilty to the breach this morning. Several of the victims appeared at North Staffordshire Justice Centre, Newcastle-under-Lyme today.

The Health and Safety Executive is prosecuting the group over last year's incident on The Smiler rollercoaster, which resulted in five people sustaining serious injuries, including two young women being forced to have a leg amputated.

The case has now been sent to the crown court for sentencing, where a large fine is expected to be handed out.

Paul Paxton, partner at Stewarts Law, which is representing a number of the seriously injured victims, said: "Given that such serious injuries could be sustained on a fun day out, it is hardly surprising that a criminal offence was committed.

"However, it is comforting for the families that a plea of guilty has been entered rather than the victims having to endure a drawn out trial. Today is not seen as a victory; the families are not motivated by retribution, but inevitably this guilty plea will be a milestone along the way to psychological rehabilitation. Regrettably the physical recovery will be a lifelong process.

"We are all grateful to the Health & Safety Executive for the thoroughness of their investigation and the way in which they have conducted themselves throughout the extensive investigation.”

On announcing plans for prosecution, 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.”

Last year Merlin said the accident was caused by "human error". The company, which will make multi-million pound payouts to the women, said the ride will re-open at some point in 2016.