A fun day out at Alton Towers went horribly wrong when a horrific accident occurred on 2 June 2015.
Vicky Balch was 19 years old when an accident at Alton Towers theme park resulted in her having to have a through knee leg amputation. At the time of the accident, Vicky was a young girl enjoying life. She was a student at Buxton University studying a Spa Management degree, was working hard and liked socialising with friends. She had her whole life ahead of her and was looking forward to the future. The accident changed everything as her injuries were life changing.
The accident occurred when Vicky was riding in the front seat of the Smiler rollercoaster. The layout of the carriage meant individuals were seated in rows of four, had a harness over their shoulders and a metal lap belt over their laps. Each carriage held 16 people.
The accident happened as a result of a full carriage being sent around the track, even though there was a stationary carriage on the track at the same time. The carriages collided and the one carrying the passengers hit the back of the empty carriage on the track.
Following the collision, due to the unusual nature of the rescue, the emergency services arrived but had to wait for scaffolding to be erected before they were able to reach the victims. This meant the victims had to wait in the carriage for four and a half hours before rescue crews could reach them.
The accident was widely reported in the media at the time, with footage of the aftermath being played on the news and social media.
Stewarts was instructed by eight of the individuals involved in the crash. Four of the most seriously hurt, including Vicky, were sitting in the front seat of the rollercoaster.
Vicky’s severe leg injury is most likely to have been caused by the collapse of the front carriage, which effectively caved in on impact.
Merlin, the owner of Alton Towers, quickly accepted responsibility for the accident. However, a full investigation was carried out by the Health and Safety Executive over whether a criminal case should be brought against Merlin. Stewarts was not involved in the criminal prosecution, but was asked by its clients to provide support throughout the investigation.
Merlin advised that it would be pleading guilty prior to the hearing. Merlin created history as the first theme park to have made such an admission. At the hearing, evidence was heard about the catalogue of errors that led to the crash. Merlin was fined a record £5m.
As a result of the accident, Vicky sustained catastrophic injuries including a through knee amputation.
Early interim payments were received that enabled Vicky to engage in rehabilitation, obtain suitable accommodation and transport, and meet her prosthetic needs.
Over time, Vicky has made a significant improvement. This has been helped by an excellent and supportive case manager, and to a large degree by her own determination and motivation. However, she will always be physically disabled.
Vicky will have a life-long reliance on a prosthetic limb and will need therapy and treatment for the rest of her life. She will always need some degree of care and these needs will increase as she ages.
In October 2019, the defendant agreed to attend a settlement meeting and four and a half years after the accident, a seven figure lump sum settlement was agreed. This settlement figure will provide financial security to Vicky, and help her live the rest of her life to the full and maximise her potential.
Vicky now has the funds to ensure that she has life-long access to sophisticated prosthetics and is able to undertake the comprehensive treatment programme she needs for the rest of her life. She can look forward to buying the aids and equipment she requires to make her life a little bit easier and allow her to live as normal life as possible.
Life Beyond Injury
Vicky is excited to be getting married in 2020 and is looking to purchase suitable accommodation that will enable her to put this claim behind her and move forward with her life.
Since the accident, Vicky has set up as a mobile beauty therapist. The settlement ensures she can set up a salon in any future home. She looks forward to being able to build her business and work in a way that suits her best.
Testimonial from Vicky
“Stewarts’ professionalism was second to none. Every question I had, or even that I didn’t have, was answered. Every person I dealt with there was both professional and person. It didn’t feel like I was dealing with solicitors at all, but a family.
I couldn’t have had a better team or better people behind me. My best interests were front and foremost. Stewarts organised a case manager for me, and with their help along with the physio, I have been able to try different activities that I used to enjoy. I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel during this time, one time to Vietnam, and Stewarts supported me the whole way with that.
The settlement will make such a difference. Life will never be the same, but it can be as close as possible to what it was before my injury. I am already sleeping better knowing that money will not be such an issue. It’s a real weight lifted.
I am hoping to settle down and buy a house in 2020, and the money received will make all the difference with this and my upcoming wedding.”
This case was reported in the The Mirror.
Life beyond injury
We have teamed up with other clients who have suffered catastrophic injuries to tell their stories of Life Beyond Injury. Please visit the Life Beyond Injury webpages here.
We hope that by sharing these stories, newly injured people can see that with the right support they too can overcome adversity to lead full and active lives.
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