ONE of the victims of the Alton Towers rollercoaster crash is a student at Huddersfield University, it was reported today.
Two teenagers injured in the accident have been named locally as student Joe Pugh and his girlfriend Leah Washington.
Four people were seriously hurt after two carriages on the Smiler rollercoaster collided at the theme park yesterday.
Joe, 18, is a student at Huddersfield University and also works at Oaks Working Men’s Club in his home town of Barnsley.
He was reportedly on the ride at the theme park with Leah when the accident happened. The extent of their injuries are not yet known.
Today, the club posted a message on Facebook which read: “After hearing the news about the terrible accident at Alton Towers it has to come to our attention that a member of our staff was involved. We at the oaks Wmc would like to extend our prayers and best wishes in the speedy recovery of our barman Joe Pugh and his girlfriend Leah Washington.
“Please be respectful of the families’ wishes as we don’t have all the details of the incident as their attention will be focused on Joe and Leah’s recovery
“All we hope is that they both recover and we have Joe back behind the bar as soon as possible.”
A spokesman for Oaks WMC added: “As soon as we saw the pictures on the news we knew it was Joe. He has a style that everybody knows. He started working here in February and he has done a lot of shifts since then.
“Joe lives with his parents and commutes to university in Huddersfield. His girlfriend lives in this area too.
“Joe is a nice lad and we hope that he will be ok. We could see on the news that he was on a stretcher but we don’t know the extent of his injuries.”
The theme park boss said today the troubled attraction had suffered “teething problems” after opening.
Nick Varney, chief executive of Merlin Entertainments which runs Alton Towers, was speaking as the Health and Safety Executive continues to investigate the accident.
Alton Towers was closed today, with no timeframe on when it might reopen.
The £18 million rollercoaster, which boasts a world record 14 loops, has been closed twice because of safety concerns since opening two years ago.
In July 2013 it was shut after reports that a bolt was seen to have fallen from the ride and in November that year the rollercoaster was closed again after plastic guard wheels came loose and hit front-row riders.
Mr Varney described The Smiler as “a relatively new ride”, and added: “All rides have teething problems when they open.”
He said a fail-safe designed to prevent accidents like the one yesterday “didn’t work the way it used to”, which resulted in occupants being rescued from 25ft (7.6m) up in the air, at an angle of about 45 degrees. The ordeal for some lasted more than four hours, with the evacuation not complete until 6.35pm.
Mr Varney told BBC News that the two carriages “should not have been on the same piece of track”.
He said: “Technically that should not have happened.
“Guest safety on those sorts of incidents is not really a major issue in the sense that when you’re on a rollercoaster car, the car can’t come off the track and you are restrained in the seats.
“When you have a glitch and the ride stops, it’s not really an issue of safety to the riders.
“What happened yesterday is something that there are other fail-safes for. There are other braking locks that should stop two cars being on the same track, but that didn’t work the way it was supposed to.”
Theme park guests posted bloody images of the scene on social media yesterday after two carriages crashed on a section of its 50mph (80kph) ride.
A spokesman for the University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust said one of the four seriously injured people admitted to the major trauma centre at Royal Stoke University Hospital has since been discharged.
Merlin Entertainments, based in Poole, Dorset, has run Alton Towers since buying out previous owner the Tussauds Group in May 2007.
Courtney Lucas, who was queuing with friends for the Smiler, said they were told there were “technical issues” with the ride and initially thought the people trapped were crash dummies.
She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “My friends thought it was crash dummies in the ride because they weren’t moving at first until somebody turned around and spoke to us. It was quite shocking.
“He was very distressed. He said ‘Do you think this is funny?’, because, obviously, my friend said the words ‘crash dummies’. We just thought they really were.
“Once we got around the corner we could see there was a man who had blood on his face, there were people who were just very limp.”
Others reported hearing “clanking” on the ride ahead of the crash.