Thrill-seekers say they haven’t been put off by the The Smiler rollercoaster crash that left four people seriously injured – and have visited Alton Towers after it reopened at 10am today.
But as visitors flock to the Staffordshire theme park, Leah Washington, who was seriously injured last Tuesday, has had her left leg amputated above the knee, the University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust has confirmed.
An Alton Towers spokeswoman said: “We are deeply saddened by Leah’s news, and all our thoughts are with her and her family.
“We have made contact with all the families and have assured them that we will provide full support to all of those involved now, and throughout their recovery and rehabilitation.”
One group of self-confessed “adrenalin junkies” from Nottingham said they had taken a day off work today to spend time at the park.
Paddy O’Shaughnessy, who was visiting with Tanya Wolff, Gareth Mcgahan and Christine Hopkin, said: “It was this, or Skegness.
“We were gutted when they first closed it. It’s a shame what happened, but it hasn’t put us off.
“We’re thrill-seekers, so it wouldn’t put us off. We planned to come the day the accident happened, and my mate said ‘You watch, they’ll close it now, you won’t be able to go’, and they did. But we’re so happy it’s open.”
Sixteen people were injured on The Smiler when two carriages collided last Tuesday.
One man who was on the ride when it crashed described the moment he “held on for dear life” as the carriages collided, before he saw blood dripping from an injured woman in front of him.
The man, who gave his name only as Oli, from Wilmslow, Cheshire, told Heart North West radio station: “Obviously we all just screamed and held on for dear life as we hit the back of it. We moved forwards and backwards with the force until we came to a stop at 45 degrees.
“It was a severe jolt. The people in front where they hit it were obviously in quite a lot of pain so they were screaming.
“A lot of people were coming to the side of the barrier and the people in front were screaming ‘Get some help, get some help’.
“There was a lot of blood coming from the carriage in front. It was dripping all over the floor. There was quite a lot of blood coming from them.”
The X-Sector of Alton Towers – which houses The Smiler – will remain closed until further notice to allow the Health and Safety Executive access to the ride for investigations.
Other visitors to the Staffordshire theme park have been posting updates to social media sharing their excitement at visiting Alton Towers today.
Nina Lancaster and Daniella Dobson took their 15-year-old daughters along today, because “we thought today would be the safest day”.
Nina said they had booked the trip about a month ago while their children had a day off school in Leeds, and were determined to go.
“We wanted to come, and the girls were really excited when they found out yesterday that it would open today,” she said.
She added she was more cautious about going, but took the view safety precautions would be at their highest today of all days.
“We didn’t want to let the children down,” she added.
Those most seriously injured in the crash have been named as Daniel Thorpe, a 27-year-old hotel assistant manager from Buxton in Derbyshire, Vicky Balch, 20, from Leyland in Lancashire, textile design student Joe Pugh, 18, from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, and his girlfriend, Leah Washington, 17.
Vicky suffered potentially life-changing injuries in the crash, and is expected to make a “substantial claim for damages” to support her recovery.