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Alton Towers Discussion Thread


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Oh, okay. Since I live so far away from Alton Towers, I've only been there once. I don't want to miss out on the Smiler or anything. I'll just wish that it'll be open next season or something.

 

Honestly Alton Towers is fantastic with or without the Smiler so the fact thats its closed shouldnt stop you visiting at any point. The park has Nemesis in it and that alone is worth the trip.

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So the latest news is that the rides computer system was working perfectly fine and human error is to blame. I don't know how reliable this article is though.

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3207431/Two-workers-quizzed-human-error-Alton-Towers-horror-Engineer-turned-automatic-safety-lock-operator-let-truck-slam-stalled-carriage.html

 

Two staff from Alton Towers are under investigation over the horrific Smiler ride crash that seriously injured four people, including two young women who each lost a leg.

The Mail on Sunday has learned that human error and a failure to follow basic safety procedures led to the devastating accident.

An engineer overrode an automatic safety lock, allowing the ride operator to send the carriage full of people careering into an empty vehicle that had ‘stalled’ further down the track.

 

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Our revelations – particularly the fact that staff are able to perform manual overrides at all – will raise disturbing questions about the safety features on the Smiler and other rides.

This newspaper understands that despite the blunder, both employees involved are still working at the park, though in different roles, while a criminal investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is under way.

 

Student Leah Washington, 18, had her left leg amputated after the collision on June 2. Boyfriend Joe Pugh, 18, had both knees smashed. Dancer Vicky Balch, 20, had her right leg amputated below the knee three weeks afterwards.

 

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Sources at the Staffordshire theme park told this newspaper how problems earlier in the day on the Smiler had resulted in an engineer being called.

 

These accounts tally with our exclusive interviews with Leah and Joe, who both recalled boarding a carriage when they reached the head of the queue, then being asked to disembark so the vehicle could be sent round without passengers.

 

Crucially, that empty carriage never completed a circuit, possibly because of high winds, and failed to make it up the ‘bat wing’ section of the ride, rolling back down the slope and coming to a rest.

 

The most fundamental safeguard on the German-built ride is that two carriages should never be able to travel on the same section of track because sensors trigger braking devices to prevent it.

 

When the 16 passengers, including Leah and Joe, were loaded into a carriage for the second time, it was halted at the top of the first upward section as the automatic brakes kicked in.

 

The computerised safety system was working perfectly as the sensors were being told there was another carriage on the same section of track, even if operating staff were inexplicably unaware of it.

 

The teenagers recalled being held at the top of the section for about ten minutes, but did not know why. Joe said: ‘It was really windy and we were freezing up there.

 

‘I said to Leah, “Something’s not right here – this shouldn’t be happening.”’ Meanwhile, an engineer engaged a manual override, allowing the carriage with passengers to continue once the ride operator had restarted the system. One Mail on Sunday source within Alton Towers said: ‘The engineer should never have manually overridden the safety lock with people on the track.’

 

An HSE spokesman said yesterday: ‘Our inquiry continues.’ Merlin Entertainments said: ‘We continue to work closely with the HSE as it investigates the causes of the incident and we are unable to comment further.’

Edited by robbalvey
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The article is purely circumstantial and is not based on official information provided by Alton Towers or the HSE.

Oh, please. I'm pretty sure we all know this is exactly what happened.

I'm not denying that the article covers what is the most probable and logical chain of events, but it is not official confirmation of what happened and is speculative in the same way that the vast majority of the enthusiast community have reached a similar conclusion.

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^ Right, except they are clearly talking to people in the know which is clearly more than just "enthusiast speculation"...

The Mail on Sunday has learned that human error and a failure to follow basic safety procedures led to the devastating accident.

An engineer overrode an automatic safety lock, allowing the ride operator to send the carriage full of people careering into an empty vehicle that had ‘stalled’ further down the track.

As horrible as the British press has been about this incident, this article is about the most legit and accurate I've read so far. And let's be honest here, all you need to do is talk to anyone who has any experience with ride manufacturing, ride maintenance, which I have actually done recently regarding this accident, and there are only so many scenarios that are possible, so I don't really think this is totally left-field speculation anymore.

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Clearly it was a human error. They test and test and test these systems daily and while they can fail sometimes, it is not the best possibility in this case that it was the fault since it had allegedly stopped the train when it was suppose to. I wonder if the engineer could face charges from this? I mean he/she obviously didn't mean to crash the trains but c'mon how do you not notice it isn't back in the station.

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This does feel like a way more credible article, and really is the only explanation I can think of that makes sense. I'll be interested to see the official investigation results of course.

 

The worst part of that article to me is that one of the girls who lost a leg was a dancer. Even if it was just a hobby, that's earth shattering. However if that was her major or if she worked at a professional company, her career is now over because of this, and that's just horrendous.

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they can fail sometimes

Systems should be designed so that any failure results in a fail-safe situation, which is exactly what initially happened. I'm sure that the engineers who create these control systems are aware of the concept, and do everything they can to ensure that a single failure in the system will never cause an unsafe condition. As with anything, there's always the possibility that catastrophic failure can happen (block brakes stop working entirely and a train in front is stalled) but in this case it sounded from the beginning like the control system and ride components worked as they should. There isn't really any other explanation, from what we know so far, for why the two trains collided other than human error.

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I wonder if the engineer could face charges from this? I mean he/she obviously didn't mean to crash the trains but c'mon how do you not notice it isn't back in the station.

 

Criminally, no. But they have likely already been fired and will be blacklisted from many new job opportunities. The only way that he can get in criminal trouble is if it's proven that he knew someone on the train and was trying to intentionally hurt them.

 

Wouldn't be surprised if when the Smiler reopens, it has much more strict controls. All somebody needs to have full control of the ride is the override key. From there, anything goes. The ride may have to be programmed to have a much more fail safe block system, as in no dispatch enable until all trains are sensed or stopped in a block, no inbetween.

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^ the article says they still work for the park. That said, I'm glad they are, for now. If they were fired but turn out to be innocent after the investigation, that's pretty shitty and they can then sue. By moving them to a place that they can cause no harm, but keeping then employed, they avoid that. After the investigation if they are found at fault, then they'll likely be fired/sacked.

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I guess I should read things before posting

 

There's a good chance that the employees are still working at the park for the investigation, but I don't believe that they will be working much longer. This is a multi-million dollar control system we are talking about, and even if a component made an error or broke, there are many, many backups that would have prevented the ride from starting. Even something as simple as starting the lift requires the ride to be in maintenance mode, so advancing trains without reinitializing the system would require a human to "be in the driver's seat"

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If the article is correct, I imagine that the two staff members in question may be liable to charges. I'm no expert, but if they have gone against the safety procedures that they have been trained in and presumably signed off against, they have knowingly 'broken the rules'. Regardless that Alton Towers is ultimately responsible for the safety of the guests, the two have acted against the procedures and are surely liable in some shape or form.

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Personally I'm pleased this has been printed even if its not yet not any kind of 'official' outcome. People reading it will take it as fact anyway so I would hope this might instill a bit more trust from the public in terms of ride safety. Frankly if it was reported to be anything other than human error that would be very frightening. At least the article suggests park SOP's were breached and there shouldn't have been anyone on it when the engineer took over, rather than suggesting The Park lacks basic safety procedures.

 

For a Daily Mail article it seems surprisingly sensible.

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^There are cameras covering that area, not sure why they didn't see it, if they didn't that is.

This is the most puzzling that I think is what we all would like to know. There should (and were) many things that would have been alerting them to the stalled ride vehicle. The panel had to be throwing out warnings and errors. There are cameras in that area. Even park guests saw the vallied train and there were reports that guests tried to alert the staff. So why did that all go ignored and the staff choose to send the train in override mode anyway?

 

That's the big question that is what I'd like an answer to.

Edited by robbalvey
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Same here. It seems like such an elementary error. I've been asking myself the same simple question ever since this happened: HOW? It was always going to be human error, but Merlin take safety soooo seriously that there must be so many protocols and redundancy to avoid someone just accidentally pushing a button and sending a train into the same block as another.

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I know this is out of left field but do you guys think the employee could've acted with malice? Disgruntled employees sometimes do horrible things.

At this point anything is possible in speculation. My guess is more negligence than malice, though. As fail-safe as the system is, nothing can ever be 100% failsafe when you include "human error" into the equation. And the only really upside to all of this is that Merlin is very lucky the accident wasn't worse. Seriously, I think we are all amazed that both cars actually stayed on the track and that as bad as the injuries were, the fact that it was only "injuries" is a positive thing.

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