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Alton Towers accident

There was a serious incident yesterday at Alton Towers in which 4 people are understood to have been seriously injured after two carriages collided on the Smiler ride. The two carriages collided at one of the lower sections of the track – one carriage carrying 16 people whilst the other carriage was empty. Emergency services including air ambulance attend to the injured. Apparently according to reports the Smiler had ground to a halt earlier in the day, and has had a history of stopping in mid-air and breaking down when the ride was supposed to continue. This includes a celebrity launch event which ended when the carriages got stuck half-way round, and also an incident a few months later in which plastic guide wheels fell off prompting safety concerns.

According to Alton Towers' website the Smiler is described as having the most loops in a rollercoaster, and features "a series of twisted psychological effects including optical illusions, blinding lights and near misses designed to mess with your mind". According to Alton Towers official twitter feed there will be an investigation into what happened to cause the accident.

The Fairgrounds and Amusement Parks Joint Advisory Committee (FJAC) has worked for over 25 years to improve standards in amusement park safety. The Fairgrounds and amusement parks Guidance on safe practice (SHG175) was first published in 1997 and was recommended in the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) Review of Fairgrounds Safety (2001). Risks of course need to be assessed and especially in fairground rides. Rides can be range from being simple to incredibly complex and safety is always a key consideration at the design stage. In more complex rides there can of course be several designers involved. All rides are subject to regular safety inspections often daily with a trial run being carried out to check that all is working properly. Careful and organised emergency planning must also be in place to ensure that evacuation procedures take place efficiently and with the help of emergency services.

Jennifer Buchanan, solicitor with Fieldfisher says: "It is rare to hear of such accidents on fairgrounds given the checks and heightened safety awareness. It is of course very worrying to read of earlier incidents with this particular ride and I have little doubt that Alton Towers will be reviewing all aspects of safety on all rides in light of the news today."

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