Wednesday 18 October 2017

Alton Towers rollercoaster crash victims praise firefighters in Smiler ride rescue

Firefighters involved in the rescue operation following the Alton Towers roller-coaster crash with (front left to right) Leah Washington, Chief Fire Officer Peter Dartford, Daniel Thorpe and Joe Pugh Credit: Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service/PA Wire
Firefighters involved in the rescue operation following the Alton Towers roller-coaster crash with (front left to right) Leah Washington, Chief Fire Officer Peter Dartford, Daniel Thorpe and Joe Pugh Credit: Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service/PA Wire

Richard Vernalls

Alton Towers roller-coaster crash victims have praised their "amazing" rescuers at an awards ceremony.

Leah Washington was among four people on the front of The Smiler ride when it crashed into an empty carriage earlier this year leaving her badly hurt.

The 18-year-old, who had to have her leg amputated as a result of the crash, said rescuers from Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service thoroughly deserved the honour.

In all, 25 firefighters from seven stations were given top service accolade the chief fire officer's certificate of commendation for risking their own lives to save others on June 2.

Chief Fire Officer Peter Dartford (centre) with Alton Towers roller-coaster crash victims (left to right) Daniel Thorpe, Leah Washington, Joe Pugh and Victoria Balch, who have praised their
Chief Fire Officer Peter Dartford (centre) with Alton Towers roller-coaster crash victims (left to right) Daniel Thorpe, Leah Washington, Joe Pugh and Victoria Balch, who have praised their "amazing" rescuers at an awards ceremony Credit: Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service/PA Wire

Ms Washington, from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, said: "The crews have been amazing, they were really caring at the time and also visited me in hospital afterwards which was lovely of them.

"They have talked me through what happened and what they did which was really helpful.

"I was really happy when I heard that they were going to be honoured for what they did to help us, they really deserve the award."

Ms Washington and boyfriend Joe Pugh, 18, also from Barnsley, were joined at the ceremony by 20-year-old Vicky Balch from Leyland, Lancashire, who also had to have her leg amputated, and partner Daniel Thorpe.

Read more: Alton Towers rollercoaster amputee Leah Washington (18) tells how she nearly died twice on The Smiler

All four were seriously injured, with emergency services working carefully for hours, nearly 30ft off the ground, to free them from the front of the carriage.

Chief Fire Officer Peter Dartford (centre) with firefighters involved in the rescue operation following the Alton Towers roller-coaster crash Credit: Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service/PA Wire
Chief Fire Officer Peter Dartford (centre) with firefighters involved in the rescue operation following the Alton Towers roller-coaster crash Credit: Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service/PA Wire

Another 12 passengers were also taken off successfully.

Mr Thorpe, from Buxton in Derbyshire, said he was delighted to see the fire crews honoured.

He added: "They were extremely professional throughout the rescue and even their presence was a huge comfort during a traumatic time.

"They have been really helpful following the incident, filling in the gaps about things that we don't remember.

"Having a clearer picture of the events has made it a lot easier to cope with.

"I can't thank them enough for everything they have done."

Chief fire officer Peter Dartford said: "The crews that dealt with the incident at Alton Towers did an absolutely amazing job in incredibly challenging circumstances."

He added: "As chief fire officer I am extremely proud of the professionalism and sensitivity that our firefighters showed throughout the entire rescue operation and in the aftermath the incident.

"I can't think of a more deserving team of people to be awarded a certificate of commendation."

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