Theme park fined £65,000 over 2016 roller coaster crash

The Tsunami rollercoaster crashed in the summer of 2016 injuring nine people. Pic: SWNS
The Tsunami rollercoaster crashed in the summer of 2016 injuring nine people. Pic: SWNS

The owners of M&D’s Theme Park have been fined £65,000 after nine people, most of them children, were injured in a roller coaster crash.

The horrific accident led to the temporary closure of the Strathclyde Park attraction in the summer of 2016.

Hamilton Sheriff Court heard on Friday of a catalogue of serious injuries sustained by the casualties who were aged between 11 and 19.

Imposing the fine, Sheriff Thomas Millar said: “It should have been a place of enjoyment and entertainment, but because of the company’s failings it became a place of terror for these young people.”

M&D Leisure Limited admitting failing to ensure the Tsunami ride at the park was maintained in an efficient state.

The charge stated that welding repairs carried out to axles on the ride’s individual passenger cars were “inadequate and unsound”.

M&D Leisure had employed contractors to carry out repairs and the ride had been passed safe, but the company accepted it should have involved the manufacturer or another “competent person” in the process.

Selena Brown, prosecuting, outlined the injuries suffered by those who plunged more than 15 feet from the ride which had a top speed of nearly 40 miles an hour.

She said one boy, aged 12 at the time, had to be resuscitated after he stopped breathing. He suffered two punctured lungs among other injuries and was in an induced coma for six days

An 11-year-old boy lost part of his hand and was in hospital for four weeks. His hand was reconstructed using skin from his leg. He has had 13 operations so far and more surgery is anticipated.

Ms Brown said some of the young victims have had to give up sport as a result of their injuries and some continue to suffer the psychological effects of being involved in such a traumatic accident.

The fiscal said a major investigation was carried out by the Health and Safety Executive and this revealed the maintenance faults that led to the crash.

Advocate Barry Smith, representing M&D’s, said the family firm have operated at Strathclyde Park for more than 40 years and employ up to 450 people in high season.

He told the court: “That this terrible accident caused such serious injuries to these children is a matter of profound regret to them.

“They have never before had such an accident and are determined to ensure there will be no repetition.

“It’s accepted there was a failure in the maintenance regime, but my clients would not have contemplated putting the ride in service had there been any doubt about its safety.

“M&Ds instructed a reputable company to carry out repairs and relied on this robust and independent testing and inspection regime. This gave them false comfort that the ride was safe to operate.

“It’s accepted that further advice from either the manufacturer or some other competent person should have been sought.”

Mr Smith said a new system for maintenance and repair of the fairground rides had been put in place since the accident.

Passing sentence, Sheriff Millar stressed that hearing was not about compensation for the injuries caused but about the company’s “degree of culpability” which he accepted was “medium”.

He added: “This breach followed an honest error by a company with an otherwise good health and safety record.”

Digby Brown Solicitors, which is representing a number of the injured parties in ongoing civil actions, welcomed the prosecution.

David Nellaney, Partner at its Glasgow office, said: “The prosecution of M&D Leisure Ltd will be welcomed by the victims and their families following the devastating and life-long impacts it has had on them.

“Additionally, I would hope this sparks an improvement process across the sector that ensures an incident like this does not happen again.

“We represent a significant number of M&D’s victims who are involved in ongoing civil actions so while we acknowledge the prosecution it would be inappropriate to comment further.”