Alton Towers crash: Eyewitness recounts ‘loud bang and the sound of screams’
EXCLUSIVE: A man from Brighouse has told the Yorkshire Standard how he was waiting in line for the Smiler ride not long before two carriages crashed.
The accident took place on Tuesday at Alton Towers theme park, and left some passengers trapped for four-and-a-half hours about 25ft (7.6m) up in the air.
The 23-year-old, who requested not to be named, was with a group of friends and said he was in the queue for more than an hour.
He said: “We’d got close to the front when they used tannoys to tell us there were technical difficulties, and that happened about three times while we watched testers go around the track, all of which returned fine and the ride appeared to be working.
“Part of the delay involved them adding an extra car to the track, they told us, to reduce the queue time. They sent one tester after that, and that was the one which, we could see from the line, almost got to the top of one of the loops before swinging back down to the bottom. However it was while this was happening that another tannoy told us they’d fixed the ride and were recommencing, and we saw the next carriage with 16 people on head up the first ramp.”
The man said that no staff could be seen to ask questions and ride operators were out of sight.
He said: “We all just assumed the whole time that the situation was under control, as they’d stopped those 16 people at the top before the first descent for quite a while. There are stairs leading to where they had stopped them, so we all presumed that they had realised the tester carriage hadn’t returned and were going to help the 16 people off the ride with harnesses.”
After a technical difficulties message, the eyewitness said him, his friends and many people in the line decided to leave.
“I could see some of the riders weren’t moving”
He said: “The collision happened after we’d left the line. We could hear the car had started moving before we saw it, and there was a very loud bang and the sound of screams when it hit. Everyone crowded around at that point, some taking pictures.
“Apart from nearby stands there was only one visible member of staff positioned at the exit who seemed to not know what to do. Eventually she started to ask the crowds to move away from the section of the park, which closed down quickly with the rest of the park open. It took way too long for any other members of staff to arrive on the scene.
“I didn’t notice any blood although I gathered there was a lot, but I could see some of the riders weren’t moving and presumed unconscious, whilst one girl screamed for someone to help them.
“I didn’t stay on the scene for much longer, it was a while before we heard the air ambulances arrive and land in the large grassy area near the front of the park, a fair distance away from the ride.”
An investigation has been launched into the cause of the accident.
Nick Varney, chief executive of the park’s owners Merlin Entertainments, said: “A full investigation is now under way and we will continue to work closely with the emergency services and the Health and Safety Executive to better understand the cause of this terrible accident.”
Yesterday, a university student studying in Huddersfield was named as one of the victims of the accident.
Note: The Yorkshire Standard can confirm that the individual visited Alton Towers on the day.