Alongside the news that a serious malfunction and crash on the extreme Smiler roller-coaster at Alton Towers theme park on Tuesday June 2 has left four young people in their teens and twenties with serious and potentially life-changing injuries, the advertorial for theme parks published in this month’s issue of Mash Media’s Conference News – “Paul Colston joins the roller-coaster”- makes unintentionally grim and thought-provoking reading.

This advises readers that “The UK theme parks and major attractions are geared up for corporate events like never before” and features Alton Tower’s head of trade and corporate sales Rachael Cotton asking “Where else can you ride the world’s most inverted roller-coaster before crashing (a prescient choice of word there by Ms Cotton) for the night in a giant hot air balloon?” She also opines that her firm’s “newly launched adrenaline add-on packages are the perfect way to wake delegates up during a corporate fun day” Well you would certainly have problems falling asleep if the roller-coaster car you were travelling in smashed into a stationary empty one at more than 50 miles an hour, we’d agree. Perhaps the much-quoted and sought-after WOW factor should stand for Why Oh Why?

Meanwhile Alton Towers operators, Merlin Entertainments, who also own Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures and Legoland and are second only to Disney in the world theme park market, are counting the cost of the accident. This is both in terms of their loss of reputation as a safe operator of white-knuckle rides – and this is not the first time the safety of their £18 million Smiler ride has been called into question – and their loss of business as Alton Towers remains closed while Health and Safety experts investigate the crash and three other roller-coasters at Thorpe Park and Chassington are closed while they are made safer.

Other costs to come, for all theme parks, will be the loss of appeal to the corporate events organisers of “adrenaline add-on packages” that feature white-knuckle rides “to wake up delegates” After all what would be the organiser’s and their employer’s legal position if an accident like the above, or worse, happened to their delegates, at a theme park chosen by them as the event venue with WOW?

Answers on a risk assessment form……….

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