“It’s like a ghost town” : Alton Towers re-opens for first time since horror crash on Smiler rollercoaster
Alton Towers bosses were blasted after they vowed to RE-OPEN The Smiler rollercoaster.
The shock announcement came on the day one of the victims of last week’s horror crash, Leah Washington, 17, had her leg amputated above her left knee.
Three other people, Daniel Thorpe, 20, Vicky Balch, 20, and Leah’s boyfriend Joe Pugh, 18, remain in hospital with serious injuries.
A further 12 people were hurt after The Smiler smashed into an empty carriage last Tuesday (2/6).
Yesterday the attraction, run by Merlin Entertainments, re-opened its doors but cordoned off the £18million rollercoaster while the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) conducts an investigation into the horror crash.
Another white-knuckle rollercoaster, The Spinball, has also been closed until further notice while extra safety measures are put into place.
Bosses claimed the disaster had not put off visitors attending the Staffordshire theme park – which lost around £3million in revenue since the crash.
Despite the closure of two of the rides in the X-Sector, ticket prices remained the same with adult entry costing £50.40 on the gate.
Merlin Entertainments spokeswoman Sally Ann Wilkinson said: “We never discuss visitor figures but what we can say is that the decision to re-open was made at 5.30pm last night (7/6) and we have several thousand people in the park.
“Not everyone can drop everything on a weekday and we are very happy with the response.
“We certainly hope to re-open The Smiler in the future. It is closed for the HSE investigation but of course, yes, we would want it to open.
“Several people have asked staff if and when the rollercoaster will re-open.
“The ticket price has remained the same but we are giving free passes to visitors to come back at a later date.
“We expect visitor numbers to climb throughout the week.”
She added that park bosses had been in close contact with the victims of last Tuesday’s crash.
She said: “We have been in contact with the families of the victims effected and we are doing everything we can for them.”
Despite theme park bosses claiming high visitor numbers, people attending yesterday branded it “a ghost town.”
Daniel Proctor, 30, from Newport, Wales, said: “I’ve been to Alton Towers six or seven times before, all outside of the usual busy periods, but I’ve never known it this quiet.
“It’s like a ghost town. It’s great in a way because we’ve been able to go on loads of the rides without the normal queues but I think it’s inevitable lots of people have been put off coming because of last week’s crash.
“It hasn’t put me off though, I bought my ticket a while ago and as soon as I heard the park was going be open I bombed straight up the motorway to get in early.”
But some fans criticised the decision to re-open The Smiler, and called for it to be demolished.
Jack Davidson, 23, from Liverpool, who visited the park yesterday said: “I think it’s really insensitive to announce the re-opening of the rollercoaster on the day a poor lass loses her leg as a result of it crashing.
“What must her poor family be thinking? Alton Towers have basically turned round and said ‘tough you lost your leg, the show must go on’. It’s terrible timing.
“I’d be amazed if anyone actually got on the ride again after what happened anyway. I wouldn’t go anywhere near it.”
Alton Towers spokeswoman Sally Ann Wilkinson has apologised for suggesting The Smiler rollercoaster would re-open.
She said: “It was my error and I apologise. I personally would like to see The Smiler re-open but it is not for me to say. I spoke out of turn.
“The fact and the truth is that no decision will be made on the future of The Smiler until the completion of the Health and Safety Executive investigation.”