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Alton Towers Discussion Thread


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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.

 

Unfortunately I think I can speculate with near certainty for a few of these. For the guest alerting the ops, that happens every day, and it becomes a boy who cried wolf scenario. The GP used to inform all the time about how they got stuck upside down in a loop for over an hour, how the lift chain broke, how their harness came flying up mid ride, etc etc. Now, at my park, they told us to call a supervisor every time. On the surface that sounds like an idiotic waste of time, but on the off chance something really was wrong, it could get addressed (and if not, at least a supervisor was dealing with it so we could go back to our job in peace).

 

If guests really were pointing it out to ops, I could see the convo going like this:

 

Guest: hey there's a train stuck on the track! (Means vallied train)

Op: (looks and sees train stopped on lift) oh its ok, it's perfectly safe.

Guest: but there might be a crash if you restart the ride!

Op: hey its ok, trust me, our computers prevent that, have a nice day!

 

As to the moron that put the ride in maintenence mode with guests on, holy crap is that ever idiotic. I mean, that isn't even just a huge SOP no no, it's about as far from common sense as you can get.

 

I won't speculate too much on the cameras because I dont know that much about smilers setup, but on the coasters I worked on, the monitors were tiny and only on evac areas. It was mostly for confirming train location in a setup or fault situation. Still, why the mechanic didn't first check for all trains accounted for is beyond me. Why they put the ride in maintenance mode with guests on, and no knowing where all trains were, is inexcusable. The fact that they did all that AND THEN jogged the lift chain WITH PEOPLE on the ride breaks every rule in the book all at once (you're not supposed to use lift jog with people on the ride since it bypasses the block system).

 

Fuck up doesn't even begin to cover it, and sadly people's lives were ruined over it.

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^ Maybe it's just training from park to park, but I know at Disney, we were not trained to blow off guests like that. I mean, sure, I get your "boy cried wolf" scenario, but if a guest was legit freaking out or had a serious concern, it was not taken lightly.

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I think the more likely option regarding the guests reporting the valleyed train would be that they were probably telling the retail staff, as the people in the actual queue that would be able to see the train would not be in the vicinity of any of the actual ride staff, so I imagine that it would either be the staff in the shop at the ride exit and the kiosk in the middle of the queue. If this was the case, I could imagine that they wouldn't report it as it would be assumed that the ride staff would be aware and have it covered. Of course this is purely speculative though, Alton Towers staff are for the most part very good and I can't see any ride staff just brushing off anybody who came to them with a concern at all, without acting upon it.

 

I would imagine that now this story has gone into the press (although I'm surprised that it hasn't appeared elsewhere yet), we will see some kind of official statement in the not so distant future, to get the official line across. Also the sooner the outcome of this is out, the sooner it can be put in the past, it's obviously horrible for all those involved, but dragging it out is not going to benefit the victims or the park. Hopefully the park can start afresh next season, as I think it's safe to say that the rest of this season is a bit of a write off in terms of visitor numbers, unless Scarefest can draw people back.

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I think the more likely option regarding the guests reporting the valleyed train would be that they were probably telling the retail staff, as the people in the actual queue that would be able to see the train would not be in the vicinity of any of the actual ride staff, so I imagine that it would either be the staff in the shop at the ride exit and the kiosk in the middle of the queue. If this was the case, I could imagine that they wouldn't report it as it would be assumed that the ride staff would be aware and have it covered. Of course this is purely speculative though, Alton Towers staff are for the most part very good and I can't see any ride staff just brushing off anybody who came to them with a concern at all, without acting upon it.

 

I would imagine that now this story has gone into the press (although I'm surprised that it hasn't appeared elsewhere yet), we will see some kind of official statement in the not so distant future, to get the official line across. Also the sooner the outcome of this is out, the sooner it can be put in the past, it's obviously horrible for all those involved, but dragging it out is not going to benefit the victims or the park. Hopefully the park can start afresh next season, as I think it's safe to say that the rest of this season is a bit of a write off in terms of visitor numbers, unless Scarefest can draw people back.

 

Yes but even if that were true and they could see the car and just assumed the staff were aware (maybe because they saw the other car had stopped on the lift?) shouldn't it be in a job like this to err on the side of caution and double check so instead of assuming something about the situation, the policy should be to report immediately and change that assumption to a fact?

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Yes but even if that were true and they could see the car and just assumed the staff were aware (maybe because they saw the other car had stopped on the lift?) shouldn't it be in a job like this to err on the side of caution and double check so instead of assuming something about the situation, the policy should be to report immediately and change that assumption to a fact?

 

Absolutely, but as this is all pure speculation we can't say for any certainty that this is what actually happened, or if anybody did actually alert any of the staff about the stalled train. People have said they have done this, but there's been a lot of blatantly false statements been made by people there that day (like the woman who was due to get on the next train, who said she could see the stalled train, obviously with her X-Ray vision through the station walls). I'm sure every aspect of what went on that day will have been investigated, including the communication between the station and the rest of the ride staff, so I'm sure that when the report is published, we will all find out.

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I've got a bit of a different opinion/ idea of what might have happened here.

Firstly, all rides have to have a manual mode, and have to be able to 'let you crash cars into each other' in order for maintenance operations to be carried out.

Coasters also typically don't 'know' where the trains are until told, and then they keep track from there.

 

What if the engineer didn't actually jog the train off the lift in manual. What if instead they inadvertently cleared the faulty block (with the valleyed car in it) without realising. If the ride had been put back into Auto it may well have then caused the car on the lift to be sent. By the time anyone realised what was happening and went for an e-stop the car may have already cleared the last set of brakes.

 

I think this is much more likely rather than some doofus purposely sending a car off the lift into the occupied block.

 

I don't know the particulars of this rides block reset procedure and Auto mode restart parameters but plenty of control systems do automatically start moving trains as soon as any faults area cleared.

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Coasters also typically don't 'know' where the trains are until told, and then they keep track from there.

 

Well, yes and no. Usually they do have a series of sensors that tell it where all the trains are. Sure, not with 100% certainty, but they know what train is in what block. When something goes wrong, USUALLY the computer defaults to fearing the worst. If they tried to do a full power reset, when they turn the PLC back on, it's going to check blocks for train locations, see a train, and throw a fault. Now, that fault probably wouldn't be ellaborate, but basically something to say "I don't know where a train is, verify train count selection."

 

Now again, I don't know about Smilers PLC compared to some of the older Arrow and B&Ms I'm familiar with, but it can be REALLLY hard to get rid of a ghost train, and probably harder still if the computer can't find all the "real trains." This is the same scenario, except that it turns out the "ghost train" was real.

 

If the PLC was set up in a way that would allow a simple block reset to allow the intrusion, that's a worrying problem with the PLC. I'd say they either jogged the chain, or changed the number of active trains so that the computer would let them reset the blocks. Either way, to do that without manually accounting for all trains is inexcusable.

 

It's also inexcusable with the ops. When we had a ride shutdown, we had to report the location of all the trains. It was the first thing we were to do when reporting the ride down. "Hi there, down for a shutdown, and there we're running three trains, and they are in the station, on the lift, and on the block brakes."

 

If every park doesn't have a procedure like that, they really should for exactly this reason.

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I agree. Sounds like they've done something strange to account for a ghost or missing train.

Given I don't think there were any proxys in that section of track the train stopped in the PLCs would no longer be seeing it on the track.

Definitely a violation of procedure somewhere.

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  • 2 weeks later...
The Smiler is testing today, looks like it should be re-opening soon.

 

Great news!

 

They're replying to people on facebook asking about the testing with this quote:

 

Alton Towers Hi Faye - we are continuing to cooperate with the Health & Safety Executive with their ongoing investigation. No further information is available at this time.

 

Does this mean the testing recently seen is still to do with the investigation or is it just standard we don't want to confirm anything just yet PR?

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The Smiler is testing today, looks like it should be re-opening soon.

 

Great news!

 

They're replying to people on facebook asking about the testing with this quote:

 

Alton Towers Hi Faye - we are continuing to cooperate with the Health & Safety Executive with their ongoing investigation. No further information is available at this time.

 

Does this mean the testing recently seen is still to do with the investigation or is it just standard we don't want to confirm anything just yet PR?

 

There have been some new safety features features fitted over the last week, extra sensors and a box on the fence where the batwing is, which I assume is to confirm visual checks of the area before the ride is restarted after a breakdown. They may be running it with HSE to show them the new features in action. But I think if they weren't planning on getting it open again this year then all of this could have been done in the close season.

Also they aren't going to confirm anything just yet, and ofcourse are cooperating with the HSE investigation and will continue to do so until their report is released, but I don't think that should be far off now.

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Extremely excited about this! I have a feeling it will open next season though, as opening during Scarefest may not bring the best publicity.

Also, glad to see that none of the theming on the ride itself has been changed, hopefully the theming around the area will return soon as well!

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Extremely excited about this! I have a feeling it will open next season though, as opening during Scarefest may not bring the best publicity.

Also, glad to see that none of the theming on the ride itself has been changed, hopefully the theming around the area will return soon as well!

 

I think the idea is most likely to get it open before scarefest, as you say re-opening it during scarefest would probably be in poor taste. The media are going to be all over it once it opens, and even the slightest bit of "normal" downtime will be reported as being another major incident so it would be best if they could get all of the negative press out of the way this year and have a fresh start next season.

That will hopefully give a bit of closure to the whole incident, and that would make it a bit easier when submitting the plans for SW8 later this year without having too much bad press about them.

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It makes me wonder if Alton is going to get "very sensitive" to the SMILER accident,

and not have any scare characters with chopped/amputated legs, etc. And their

scare scenes in haunt houses, etc. too?

 

Just a thought on it.

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It makes me wonder if Alton is going to get "very sensitive" to the SMILER accident,

and not have any scare characters with chopped/amputated legs, etc. And their

scare scenes in haunt houses, etc. too?

 

Just a thought on it.

 

This would be about as stupid as some park changing the name of their new ride due to some idiot getting hit and killed by a green inverted coaster that is right next door to the construction zone.

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It makes me wonder if Alton is going to get "very sensitive" to the SMILER accident,

and not have any scare characters with chopped/amputated legs, etc. And their

scare scenes in haunt houses, etc. too?

 

Just a thought on it.

 

This would be about as stupid as some park changing the name of their new ride due to some idiot getting hit and killed by a green inverted coaster that is right next door to the construction zone.

 

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There is one of two ways it will reopen I think. They will either reopen it next season with no fanfare or announcement as quietly as possible, to minimise the amount of bad press it receives when it does reopen, or they are preparing it to open soon and get any negative coverage out of the way before the new season starts next year. In my opinion the most likely is the latter, as this season has already been a bit of a write off with low attendance since the accident, so the press will hurt it less this year so they can start with a 'cleaner' slate next year.

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So will Smiler re-open this season? Or is this just a few test runs?

 

It's LTCI (Leisure Technical Consultants Limited) that have been testing the ride, apparantly this is an independant company that check all the rides after their winter maintenance to make sure they are ok to be opened to the public. So nothing to do with HSE. Also Rattlesnake at chessington world of adventures, which has also been closed since the Smiler accident, re-opened today. So I would say The Smiler re-opening is imminent, I personally wouldn't be surprised to see it open at some point this week, if not then definitely before the end of the month.

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Alton Towers have apparently said that the investigation is still on-going, and that they do not expect The Smiler to open for the foreseeable future while it continues, despite rumours that they were preparing it to reopen before Scarefest starts in October.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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