Girl injured in rollercoaster accident has leg amputated

Leah Washington suffered injuries at Alton Towers while boyfriend broke both knees

The Smiler ride at Alton Towers Resort in Staffordshire – one of the people seriously injured in last week’s  crash has had her left leg amputated. Photograph: PA

The Smiler ride at Alton Towers Resort in Staffordshire – one of the people seriously injured in last week’s crash has had her left leg amputated. Photograph: PA

 

One of the people seriously injured in last week’s Alton Towers rollercoaster crash has had her left leg amputated above the knee, doctors have confirmed.

Leah Washington, 17, from Barnsley in South Yorkshire, also suffered a fractured hand in the incident, which left four people with serious injuries and 12 others hurt.

Leah’s boyfriend, 18-year-old Joe Pugh, was treated for two broken knees and extensive hand injuries, the University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust has confirmed.

The announcement came as the Staffordshire tourist attraction opened its gates to the public for the first time since Tuesday’s crash, when two carriages on the Smiler ride collided.

David Washington, Leah’s father, said medics “saved Leah’s life” following the crash, after which she was said to have been given a blood transfusion and morphine before she passed out.

In a statement: “We would like to thank our family and friends and all the well-wishers for their support.

“Leah has suffered a life-changing injury and now has many months of rehabilitation ahead of her. We have done this to put people’s minds at rest and we would also ask everyone to respect Leah’s privacy as she undergoes this rehabilitation.

“We would like to thank all the emergency services at the scene and all the hospital staff who saved Leah’s life.”

Leah, her boyfriend Mr Pugh, 27-year-old old hotel assistant manager Daniel Thorpe from Buxton in Derbyshire, and 20-year-old Vicky Balch from Leyland in Lancashire, have been described as the most seriously injured.

Ms Balch suffered potentially life-changing injuries in the crash, and is expected to make a “substantial claim for damages” to support her recovery, her solicitor said last week.

The four are being treated at the Royal Stoke University Hospital and the University Hospital Coventry.

Simon Pugh, Mr Pugh’s father, said: “I would like to thank our friends and family for their support.

“We would also like to thank the staff at the hospital who have been very accommodating, have been lovely to us and have protected our privacy.

“We would ask people to respect Joe’s privacy now and over the weeks and months ahead.”

Eyewitnesses reported spending around four hours waiting to be rescued as emergency crews were faced with the delicate task of safely reaching the bloodied passengers, stranded 25ft in the air at an angle of about 45 degrees.

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: “As we came round the corner we probably only had a second or two to see it.

“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.

“I thought [it was] the guy in front of me. I saw at some point he had cut his face, but it was actually coming from the girl next to him who had the severely damaged leg.”

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.

The Spinball ride will also be closed at the Staffordshire theme park until enhanced safety protocols have been implemented, but Merlin Entertainments said this would take slightly longer than it had hoped due to the design of the ride.

Three rides at other Merlin Entertainments parks, Thorpe Park, and Chessington World of Adventures – both in Surrey – will also remain closed until new safety protocols can be implemented. But these are expected to reopen soon.

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.”