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Ian-S

The Smiler Incident 02/06/2015

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Basic procedures missing out is a scary factor, I remember back at Chessie needing to know pretty much everything about anything (though it tended to be call a TL and let them do it) in terms of dealing with situations...

 

Fine them their turnover for the lols please...

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Mer, they were getting their reports from a local reporter tweeting from the public gallery, he called the skyride a rollercoaster earlier and it was immediately parroted by the media, but the main lot (bbc/sky) have got people there now, those guff reports have now been pulled so that's why I asked.

 

I can easily see this being the biggest fine in history given the circumstances.

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Sorry to double post but just for reference the biggest H&S fine up to now was Transco in 2005 at £15Mil.  I know thr Judge said expect up to £10Mil but surely this will eclipse Transco. 

 

One thing that I find alarming is that it took nearly 20 minutes for somebody to call 999, nobody standing around watching thought to do it?

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Another thing which I still can't get my head around is the fact that the ride was operating despite the wind speed being way over the maximum operating one, they know the ride can stall, the previous empty train had to be "pushed"... yet they didn't think to actually leave the station and have a look to see if the highly-likely-to-stall-considering-the-wind-speed, empty car had stalled?  

I guess this is where the use of the term "constant" when referring to the wind speed becomes critical; the park won't operate it if it's a constant 34mph+ wind, whereas Gerstlauer just say the wind speed, which presumably allows for sudden gusts of wind/change in wind speed reaching 34mph+. In other words, if there's 34mph+ winds at some point during the day, according to Gerst it shouldn't operate. 

So perhaps the constant wind speed was below 34mph, allowing the ride to open...but then surely around the time of testing, they would've been keeping an eye on the wind speed and must've had some idea of it going over 34mph? I'm no weather expert and I know you do get sudden gusts of wind, but it was apparently 46mph gusts, so it must've been pretty high at the time already! But then if the engineers in atendance weren't familiar with the ride...ugh I don't know. 

It's also got me wondering how/why it was changed to "constant" by Towers; was it a misunderstanding/misinterpretation, or was it intentional, and did they consult the manufacturer? 

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22 minutes ago, MattyMoo said:

I really can't see what Merlin are going to say in their defence on this - one would assume it'll be wrapped up today without going into tomorrow.

 

As they've pleaded guilty, I doubt there will be much they will say.

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58 minutes ago, Marc said:

 

I'd kind of argue it is if they wish to make public interviews.. that said I don't think she said anything too different to what's been said in court.

Yes their earlier public expressions, but now someone trying to suggest they have been changing their story in court based off someone's interpretations of a twitter feed is a bit silly.

 

I'm not pretending to know everything but in my opinion the court really shouldn't go lightly on Merlin for this. They are a billion pound multi national company that regularly overlook essential factors in the designs of their rides (The Smiler is a shining example of this), they provide confusing procedures for people to follow and apply high pressure so no one can question the norm, and usually under-provide integral systems (such as CCTV, thankfully this has been rectified in most parks since then).

 

Unfortunately their tactics are usually to hire more and more managers which only makes clear, common sense decisions near impossible, rather than any efficient on-the-ground operational training and understanding. Their H&S is not "bad", it's highly structured and micromanaged (crossing the line into paranoia territory in UK parks), but yet this awful accident shows that it can still go wrong if the fundamentals aren't there and there's no bottom line of common sense.

 

Very happy to see the individuals involved aren't being blamed, the operator and the engineering technicians. Hopfully this will push for better within the company at all operational levels.

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17 minutes to call 999 is an actual disgrace, maximum 5 minutes for a TL to radio control and give the details of a crash, send help asap...

 

Awful management there...

 

In terms of wind, constant is the key term, I saw a stall occur at Milky Way the ride op was testing it carefully (in that whole, one more car to make sure situation), where a massive gust a wind blew into the drop as it went around, this is probably what occurred here, but everything afterwards procedural wise is a disaster... There's staff in the shop and front gate yet it didn't go through? Strange tidings indeed...

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This may be hearsay but I was under the impression that when cars were added to the track (at that particular time) they were only supposed to be added with water dummies in, due to the stalling problems previously?

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Merlin have to make a statement in Court to emphasize the overall improvements now in place to avoid the possibility of a further incident; this will have to reassure the public that it is now safer than it apparently was at the time of the incident.

 

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3 hours ago, Ian-S said:

One thing that I find alarming is that it took nearly 20 minutes for somebody to call 999, nobody standing around watching thought to do it?

I can't believe that out of the hundreds of people who were stood in the area, no-one thought to call 999 - and the people who prioritised filming the incident over using their phone to call for help should be ashamed of themselves.

 

I'd like to pick up on a few quotes from the BBC news live feed; 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-stoke-staffordshire-37371229

Quote

Prosecution barrister Bernard Thorogood says engineers were doing their best without any system to follow and said there was a risk of bad practice as well as good handed down.

He also questioned the level of training and said none of the four engineers involved had a full understanding of what was going on.

The court heard staff at the theme park had come to distrust fault signals on occasions, hence the view the fault showing was an error.

Quote

Engineers working on the day hadn't read or seen the operating instructions for the ride, the court has heard.

Prosecutor Bernard Thorogood earlier told the court that wind speeds of up to 46mph were to blame for an empty carriage getting stuck on the track, leading to the crash.

The theme park's own procedures stated the ride should not be operated if there was a "constant" wind speed of more than 34mph.

Yet the manufacturer's own manual states makes no reference to the term "constant"

These two on their own are bad enough, it really hits home that with competent procedures, this terrible incident would not have happened.

 

Quote

The computer correctly stopped that car. 

Engineers looked but couldn't see the stalled car, thought the computer was wrong, and over rode the stop. This set the ride in motion

Don't think anything needs to be said here.

 

Quote

The passengers on the front row of the Smiler rollercoaster crash are sitting on the front row in court.

Sixteen people who were on board the ride that day are in court for the hearing which could last up to two days.

The prosecution says that gale force winds of 46mph are the "likely cause" of an empty Smiler carriage stalling on the track before the collision.

Prosecutors say the manufacturer's manual says it shouldn't be operated at speeds above 34mph.

How on earth wasn't that thought of?  Surely there would have been a wind meter in the station which would have told them the wind speed was too high?

 

As much as I've been quick to defend Merlin in how they handled the situation, I find it shocking that so many operational and safety aspects were overlooked, and the fact that people's lives have been changed because of total incompetence.

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They've said there was a wind meter at Obvlion which for some reason wasn't activated.

 

Merlin have also disputed that wind caused the stall stall.

 

"Merlin’s barrister suggests the empty carriage could have become stuck because the brakes slowed the empty train “more than they should have done.”"

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1 minute ago, Marc said:

They've said there was a wind meter at Obvlion which for some reason wasn't activated.

 

Merlin have also disputed that wind caused the stall stall.

 

"Merlin’s barrister suggests the empty carriage could have become stuck because the brakes slowed the empty train “more than they should have done.”"

Interesting, it could have been a combination of both (brakes and wind) but I guess there's no way of telling for sure.

 

I do find it bizarre if Smiler didn't have a wind metre of its own, especially considering that element is prone to stalling.

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Was just about to post that. 

 

Disturbing to watch...also if there's CCTV cameras clearly pointing to that area, then how on earth was the stalled car not visible to the operator? :blink: 

 

Regarding the quote about the brakes slowing the train down more than they should have; could it perhaps be because of the high wind speed? Not sure if that sounds silly, but it made me wonder if the brakes could be affected by wind speed, I.e via sensors etc to stop it over speeding? 

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It's easy to see why it wasn't seen, especially if the operator wasn't looking closely, with hindsight we know there's a car there but on quick glance it's hard to see it exactly because it's partly obscured by the track and the seats are a similar pattern to the track itself onscreen.

 

Edit: Also it wasn't a 90mph impact, if it was all 16 would be dead from basal skull fracure with those restraints, a 45mph impact into a stationary object is just that, a 45mph impact, it only becomes s 90mph impact if the object you hit is also doing 45mph iñ the opposite direction to you, it's splitting hairs I know but it's stretching the truth on little things like this that the press then pick up and run with without at least passing it by a physics student for confirmation that makes the whole situation worse for all.

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22 minutes ago, Ian-S said:

It's easy to see why it wasn't seen, especially if the operator wasn't looking closely, with hindsight we know there's a car there but on quick glance it's hard to see it exactly because it's partly obscured by the track and the seats are a similar pattern to the track itself onscreen.

True, however (assuming today's news articles are accurate) the ride flagged up an error message, therefore everything should have been thoroughly checked prior to starting the ride.

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Regarding the 999 calls, or lack thereof, to be fair to the people who witnessed this horrific accident they probably had no idea what to do. Put yourself in their situation, you dont really know what happened, what is happening, and if the emergency services have already been called, and as for Towers themselves, at first it really seems shocking that it took 20 minutes to call 999, but wasnt it mentioned that Alton's own First Aiders on the scene? Maybe it was a case of "How bad is it? Very bad. Okay, let's call 999."

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It should not take nearly 20 minutes for staff to assume that a ride crash would require emergency services...

 

As for the force thing, didn't they say it was the equivalent? F=ma and all that jazz, especially as I'd wager a single ride train weighs more than most cars... It's probably a slight overexaggeration, but is also maybe closer than some might realise...

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Not the way I was taught but that was 30 years ago so things might have changed.

 

Regarding the 999 Sam, I think its more the fact none of the bystanders called it, I have been in that situation and it was the first thing I did (car crash, not rollercoaster crash tho).  Also I'm actually not sure there was lots of people there, the background looks pretty empty in the video, but thats still no excuse for those thast were, I guess it was a case of assuming someone else / the resort had called already, there's that word again....

 

 

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To be fair it's perfectly possible that guests did call 999 - problem is with guests is anything what happens can be majorly blown out of proportion- whilst in this case it was obviously major I expect emergency services wouldn't attend till towers confirmed they were needed.

 

May be totally wrong of course 

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2 hours ago, ChessingtonSam said:

Regarding the 999 calls, or lack thereof, to be fair to the people who witnessed this horrific accident they probably had no idea what to do. Put yourself in their situation, you dont really know what happened, what is happening, and if the emergency services have already been called, and as for Towers themselves, at first it really seems shocking that it took 20 minutes to call 999, but wasnt it mentioned that Alton's own First Aiders on the scene? Maybe it was a case of "How bad is it? Very bad. Okay, let's call 999."

I all honesty I think it would have been pretty obvious that the emergency services were required.

 

I'm still in disbelief over the full details that have emerged today.  The amount of neglect both in terms of training and procedures is ridiculous, far more than I originally thought.

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