Alton Towers' crash victim wants Smiler ride shut for good

Alton Towers' crash victim wants Smiler ride shut for good

A woman who had her leg amputated after the UK Alton Towers’ roller coaster crash wants The Smiler to be shut for good, as park bosses have spoken of reopening the ride.

Vicky Balch said it was too soon to consider letting the public back on the Staffordshire ride, and wishes it could be shut altogether.

The 20-year-old university student said park boss Nick Varney had told her during a recent meeting at her home that he believed the ride should open “as soon as possible”.

She said: “I was upset because obviously, I don’t want to hear that. It’s still very raw. I don’t want it opened quite yet. I’m not ready to hear that.”

He also discussed with Ms Balch how visitor numbers to Alton Towers were down since the crash, and how as a consequence parent company Merlin Entertainments’ profits had been hit.

Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Ms Balch of Leyland, Lancashire, claimed she got the impression Mr Varney was suggesting the ride had to reopen because the firm was losing money.

“That’s what it felt like he meant,” she added.

Mr Varney has said that while he discussed visitor numbers and revenues in a meeting earlier this month, the company “made no complaint about the impact on our business as the crash was our responsibility”.

He has apologised for any distress caused to Ms Balch and other victims left seriously injured, after the carriage they were in hit an empty test car on the tracks, on June 2.

Ms Balch was one of four badly hurt, including partner Daniel Thorpe, from Buxton in Derbyshire, together with Leah Washington and her boyfriend Joe Pugh, both 18, and from Barnsley.

Ms Washington also had to have her leg amputated as a result of the injuries she suffered.

In the immediate aftermath, emergency services worked for hours nearly 30ft up off the ground, to free the four of them from the front of the mangled carriage.

Ms Balch, who has had to take a year out from her University of Derby studies to focus on recovery, said any reopening should at least be delayed as a mark of sensitivity to the crash victims.

Asked if she wanted the ride closed for good, she replied: “I’d like it to be, but I know that’s not realistic because it was a big attraction for the company.”

Despite five operations, surgeons had to amputate her right leg below the knee, robbing Ms Balch of her independence.

She said: “It’s affected literally every aspect of my life, I’m not independent any more at all. I’m slowly getting that back but life is never going to be the same as it used to be.

“I’ve got all this to deal with for the rest of my life and then they’ve said this (the reopening) a couple of months after it’s happened.

“It feels like it’s not fair.”

She added: “I was at university, so I’ve been there for two years so I’ve been independent for almost two years. I was doing basically whatever I wanted with my friends, looking after myself and then now I’ve had to go home and I can’t do many things myself.

“I can’t carry a drink from one room to another, everything’s changed.”

Mr Varney said he met all the victims to discuss the findings of an internal investigation into the how the crash happened, which has concluded “no single cause” was to blame but instead it was down to “an exceptional set of circumstances”.

He added: “I absolutely stressed that we took responsibility because our safety processes and protocols failed to prevent it.”

Mr Varney also said: “Since the terrible incident on June 2 we have done all we can to support those so badly affected by it, and their families.

“I genuinely thought that the right thing to do was to meet with each of them individually to explain our main findings and to answer their questions directly.

“In all my conversations I expressed our sincere apology and acceptance of responsibility for what happened.

“I am deeply sorry if anything we discussed caused distress or offence.”

A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive said its investigation into the crash was continuing and could not comment further at this stage.

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