Smiler rollercoaster crash victim criticises Alton Towers for reopening ride


One of the victims of the Smiler rollercoaster crash has said she feels Alton Towers is putting money before people as the park prepares to reopen the ride this weekend.

Vicky Balch, 20, had to have her leg amputated after the carriage she was in smashed into another car at the Staffordshire theme park last June.

Speaking to ITV News, Ms Balch, of Lancashire, said: "I've never wanted it to reopen, that's just the obvious reaction.

"I understand it's a business and it's what they have to do. I just didn't think it'd be so soon, it's only nine months, it's not a very long time.

"But at the end of the day it feels like the money comes before the people on the ride."

Four other people were seriously injured in the crash, which park owner Merlin Entertainments said was due to human error.

Leah Washington, from Barnsley, also had to have her leg amputated while boyfriend Joe Pugh was left with life-changing injuries when both his kneecaps were shattered.

Mr Pugh said he would have preferred the ride to remain closed.

Speaking to ITV's Good Morning Britain, he said: "I think it would have been a bit unrealistic if we had both said 'I don't think it's ever going to reopen again' because it always was going to, but if people choose to go on it that's up to them.

"Seeing it go round, it's not something that I want to see. I would have preferred for it to be closed."

Speaking about how he had been coping emotionally in the nine months since the accident, he said: "I think we have been better than people probably expect, (we are) just trying to keep positive all the time and actually realising how far we've come and how well we have actually done."

Speaking about her rehabilitation, Ms Washington told the programme: "It's going well. I get to a good point, then something will happen and it brings you back down, and then you'll get to another good point and then you'll get down again, so it's a bit like a rollercoaster.

"It's our parents that have struggled the most with emotional stuff, we kind of help them because we're so positive.

"We help them and make them understand that we are fine, we're still here and we've got to move on."

Sixteen people were hurt in the collision, with Daniel Thorpe, from Buxton, Derbyshire, and Chandaben Chauhan, from Wednesbury, West Midlands, suffering serious injuries.

A statement from Merlin Entertainments last November said: "There were found to be no technical or mechanical problems with the ride itself."

The Health and Safety Executive announced in February that Merlin is to be prosecuted over the crash and the company is due in court in April.