The Smiler Incident - What Happened

Rob

TS Team
Favourite Ride
Steel Vengeance
We all know that for various reasons The Smiler is not the world's best built coaster. It was evident seeing them trying to put the last piece of track in place that things were never all going to join up perfectly. However I have no doubts that it is totally safe and the gaps in the track are nothing to worry about.

:)
 

grrrr

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Vertigo, Tivoli Gardens
To continue the discussion happening in the Scarefest 2019 thread...
But you keep ignoring the part where it says that it wasnt above the manufacturer's recommendation ... Where have you quoted that part about 34mph wind speed "on the day"? It's not in the public prosecution comments
I haven't seen anything which categorically provides evidence of the wind speed immediately in the vicinity of the Smiler on the day - it may be the case that there was no functioning wind sensor on the ride itself, only one on the Skyride nearby.

However, the HSE Factual Report quotes the Manufacturer's operating instructions (point 46) -
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Specifically the bit where it mentions that the ride should be shut down when the wind reaches 34mph, which is evidenced by "trees oscillating". The CCTV footage clearly shows trees being blown about, and I would argue therefore the ride was being run other than in accordance with Gerstlauer's instructions.

The prosecutor has been quoted during the proceedings as saying "there were estimated winds on the day of the crash of 45mph but the manufacturer's manual stated the ride should not be operated at wind speeds above 34mph".

Given this, you can understand why AT are being such sticklers for the rules, if it's correct that the Intamin's operating instructions advise them not to operate Th13teen in sub-5°C conditions.
 

grrrr

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Vertigo, Tivoli Gardens
Would be difficult to ascertain - I would imagine that full operations manuals / operating procedure documents and such are not public domain for reasons of corporate secrecy. But Merlin's defence team during the trial were quoted as saying that (pre-crash) The Smiler had an alarm which should have sounded when the wind reaches 32mph*, and they have subsequently implemented safety procedures to prevent the ride operating in high winds, but the specifics of those procedures are likely confidential too.

I'd say it's a safe bet that they'll err on the side of caution and stop the ride operating at 32-34MPH.

* - edited to add that it's unclear if that sensor didn't trigger because it was faulty, or if it was set to activate in cases of constant 32mph wind rather than individual gusts, or if the wind didn't reach that speed at all (but given the Skyride sensor recorded gusts of 45 - 46 MPH on that day according to the prosecutor, I believe the last scenario is unlikely).
 
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OilyWater

TS Member
Thanks for doing that research and finding extra background on it!

Seemingly overall there still wasnt hard evidence that the winds were above the manufacturer's limit. The fact the wind alarm didnt go off suggests that it was being operated within the limit. Otherwise Im sure it would have been highlighted somewhere that the alarm hadnt been tested/fixed if it was just faulty.

It's less simple than I thought then but still the issue was unclear procedure over resetting blocks, not about manufacturers instructions. Or let's say it was the 'the lack of assessment' over the potential for wind (not necessarily above operating limit) to cause empty trains to stall and require block resets.

Seems like it was a very rare, specific set of circumstances that caused the crash but the whole investigation exposed surrounding issues with safety procedure and the clarity of the training.

I wouldnt want to dig the whole thing up again but when the popular word online is still along the lines of 'the operator/engineer got it wrong' or 'it was being operated outside the manufacturers instructions' it's just not fair, this wrongly passes the blame to specific people and is not what the investigation found.

Clear procedure and good practical training is totally key, I hope that was what Merlin took away from the incident. Not just throwing more and more convoluted arbitrary rules at people in an A4 booklet that everyone forgets after theyve done the test.
 

ringo

TS Member
The reason why human error is out there as the cause is because Merlin released a statement stating that it was human error.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news...r-crash-caused-by-human-error-theme-park-says

The crash on the Smiler rollercoaster at Alton Towers that seriously injured five people was caused by human error, the theme park’s owner has said.

In a statement on Tuesday, the theme park owner said: “The investigation concluded that the incident was the result of human error culminating in the manual override of the ride safety control system without the appropriate protocols being followed.

“The investigation also identified areas where protocols and the training of employees should be improved. There were found to be no technical or mechanical problems with the ride itself.”
 

Rick

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Crux
The courts in their judgement found it was the employer, Merlin, who was at fault and not any particular employees.
If people choose to make a distinction, I think it's that Merlin were indeed found liable, but it was the error of a human that caused the two trains to collide, allowed to make such an error because the process and governance within the company was broken.

@TakeYourMedicine In terms of myths... Nick Leslau's name appears in all sorts of badly written Wikipedia articles about various Merlin properties, often listed as the 'owner'. He's the chairman of Prestbury, does he have a huge stake in it too?
 

Alsty

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Shambhala
Just to be pedantic but it was a failing of multiple humans, not a single one, caused by a lack of formal process.

I think that's an important distinction because it's not possible for a single person to make a single mistake and cause a collision. The control system has engineered out those single points of failure.
 

OilyWater

TS Member
Just to be pedantic but it was a failing of multiple humans, not a single one, caused by a lack of formal process.
To be even more mega pedantic there was no human error, it was systematic /organisational error so anyone could have made those mistakes. That was the point that the ruling was making but yeah.


@TakeYourMedicine In terms of myths... Nick Leslau's name appears in all sorts of badly written Wikipedia articles about various Merlin properties, often listed as the 'owner'. He's the chairman of Prestbury, does he have a huge stake in it too?
I have no idea but he happened to be the one from Secure Income REIT who said it. For someone close to Merlin I'm surprised he'd be so uninformed and still going with the human error blame
 
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spinba11

TS Member
Somebody will know where to look for the answer, where’s the block rest button that resets the first half of the ride block, I’ve always thought it was at the base of lift 2 but somebody has said it’s at the base of lift 1?
 

Alsty

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Shambhala
What do you mean by 'first half'? The section from top of lift 1 to the base of lift 2 will be reset at lift 2 position. Block resets are normally located at the end of the section.
 

themeparkfan

TS Member
Well I read today Vicky got a multi million payout for compensation to help her overcome the trauma and get her life back together and guess what her first spend is going to be? A massive lavish wedding. I know I might sound cruel but is that really what the money was intended for? Surely the daily mirror should fund the wedding for the sole right to cover it?
 

AT86

TS Member
Well I read today Vicky got a multi million payout for compensation to help her overcome the trauma and get her life back together and guess what her first spend is going to be? A massive lavish wedding. I know I might sound cruel but is that really what the money was intended for? Surely the daily mirror should fund the wedding for the sole right to cover it?

She’s the one who went for a fun day out and was involved in a roller coaster crash. She lost her leg. She has to deal with the physical and psychological effects of this for the rest of her life.

She can spend it on what ever she wants.
 

Alsty

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Shambhala
Just responding to that video. While it's a lot more accurate than the reports in the media, it's still not totally correct.

The fifth train was not added by the ride operators without the knowledge of technical services as suggested. The trains are only added by technical services, not by operations, so the miscommunication was actually between the engineers adding the train and the engineers resetting the block (also: base of lift 2, not lift 1). The operator would just be sat in the cabin while this is all going on around them.

It also misses some of the subtlety, in my opinion, by not showing the significance of the lack of formal processes. The report went into great detail about how formal processes and cross-checking eliminate dangerous assumptions, and those processes were missing allowing the assumptions to creep in unchecked.
 
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