Crash victim’s anger that ride went ahead

Joe Pugh, injured in the Alton Towers crash
Joe Pugh, injured in the Alton Towers crash
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THE STUDENT boyfriend of a teenager who had her leg amputated after a rollercoaster crash has spoken of his anger over their traumatic experience at Alton Towers.

Joe Pugh, opening up about the incident for the first time, said there was a “sickening bang” as their carriage collided with another in the incident 13 days ago which left him, his girlfriend Leah Washington and three other people with serious injuries.

Eighteen-year-old Mr Pugh, whose knees were shattered in the crash on the Smiler ride at the Staffordshire theme park, told the Mail on Sunday: “I remember a sickening bang with metal grinding against metal and the safety bar being rammed against my knees.

“I looked at my hands and there was blood everywhere.”

Leah, 17, who, like her boyfriend, is from Barnsley, suffered the most serious injuries. Her left leg has been amputated above the knee and she is also being treated for a fractured hand.

Mr Pugh, reportedly a student at Huddersfield University, said it was his fourth time on the Smiler ride, which was the first rollercoaster he had been on, and it would be his last experience of the ride.

He said he and the other passengers on the Smiler had been forced to alight twice before it began to allow for staff to conduct safety checks, and he described a nervous 20-minute delay as the rollercoaster paused on one of the loops.

Mr Pugh added that the excited screams of his fellow passengers turned to horrified ones moments after the crash as they were stuck in the carriage at an angle of 45 degrees.

“We couldn’t believe what we were seeing,” he said.

Immediately after the crash Mr Pugh said he became annoyed when he saw a girl taking a video of the trapped thrillseekers.

He said he remains angry after the incident, insisting someone should have realised the empty train was on the track and the ride should have been shut down.

Last week, Leah’s brother Luke revealed that his sister was making a “rapid recovery”.

He said the family had been taken aback by her strength after she had initially needed a machine to keep her alive when she was admitted to intensive care.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Washington said: “Each day has gone by and she has improved and improved.”

He added: “We’ve all been there for Leah but she’s the one who’s kept us going. She’s just done amazing. I don’t know where she’s got this strength from but it’s really opened our eyes.”

In the aftermath of the crash it was reported that four people had been seriously injured but that number has since been revised to five.

Daniel Thorpe, a 27-year-old old hotel assistant manager from Buxton in Derbyshire, 20-year-old Vicky Balch from Leyland in Lancashire, and Chandaben Chauhan, 49, of Wednesbury, West Midlands, also suffered injuries.

Ms Balch’s solicitor has said that she suffered potentially life-changing injuries and that she is expected to make a “substantial claim for damages” to support her recovery.

Alton Towers, which is run by Merlin Entertainments, has said it is in contact with the victims of the crash and their families.

A spokesman said: “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.”

The theme park was closed for six days after the crash on June 2. Although it has now re-opened to the public, the Smiler ride and three other rides remain closed.

The Smiler is the subject of an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive and it will stay closed “for the forseeable future”, according to a statement on Alton Towers’ website.