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Alton Towers ride grounded as bits fall off £18m coaster

By MIG: Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: November 06, 2013

A photograph taken by witness John Harrison, of the Smiler ride debris which fell into the safety netting.

A photograph taken by witness John Harrison, of the Smiler ride debris which fell into the safety netting.

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A VISITOR to Alton Towers has spoken of his shock after bits fell off the resort's new £18million roller coaster – causing the attraction to be closed.

The Smiler was shut on Saturday after an incident which saw “small guide wheels” fall and hit four people on the ride.

John Harrison, from Rudyard, who was visiting Alton Towers with his family on the day of the incident, witnessed the parts falling onto the safety net above where he and his young son stood watching the ride.

Mr Harrison said: “We visited Alton Towers for my eight-year-old son Isaac’s birthday, and while my wife Laura and our two daughters had gone to the toilet, I took Isaac down to see the Smiler ride.

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“It was when one of carriages was almost reaching the highest point in the ride when around 25 to 30 bits started flying down onto the safety net above our head.

“At first I thought they were bearing covers – they looked like they were plastic and each around the size of a hand.

“I ran down to the person operating the ride and shouted at him to stop the ride.

“They did stop the ride but I am not sure how they got the people off.

“I heard that several people on the ride had got hit by the pieces that were flying off, which is not very good at all.” Mr Harrison said that the experience has put him and his family off visiting the Alton Towers Resort in the future.

He said: “I have never seen anything like it.

“It’s not very good from a health and safety view – do they not make checks on these rides? “I have always thought that some of the rides are too fast for the rails they are on.

“I dread to think what would have happened if that safety net had not been above us.

“Isaac was quite scared by the experience and it has put us off going to Alton Towers again.

“I have heard that there has been lots of problems with The Smiler since it opened.

“With the price you pay to get in to Alton Towers, you would expect a higher standard.” A spokesperson at the resort said on Monday: “We can confirm that The Smiler remains closed following a technical issue experienced on Saturday afternoon, in which a number of small, plastic guide wheels became detached from the lift hill chain guard.

“These were caught beneath the track in the safety netting, but regrettably several were flicked into the four guests sitting in the front row of the train.

“As you would expect from the UK's most famous Theme Park, all of the rides and attractions are expected to meet extremely high standards, technologically, mechanically and in terms of the end experience and therefore, despite the fact that the ride could have continued to operate safely, we chose to close it immediately to enable us to begin a full investigation. We are of course very sorry for any disappointment the ride’s temporary closure is causing, but the health and safety of all of our visitors is our absolute priority.” Plans to open the 14-loop Smiler in March this year were scrapped after poor winter weather was blamed for delaying building work.

In May the roller coaster broke down during a celebrity preview, with some guests being left stranded in mid-air.

The ride’s formal launch, which had been due to take place a few days later, was then postponed as the “teething problems” were resolved.

In July the ride had to be closed for several days after a piece of metal apparently fell from the track.

Further technical problems caused closures in August and September.

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