One of two young women to lose a leg in the Alton Tower rollercoaster crash has criticised the decision to reopen the Smiler ride this weekend as "inappropriate and insensitive".
Vicky Balch, 20, had her leg amputated following the crash in June last year along with Leah Washington. A further three people, including Washington's boyfriend Joe Pugh, were also seriously injured.
The Smiler has been closed since the accident but will reopen on Saturday, less than five weeks before owners Merlin Entertainments are due to appear in court to charged with health and safety breaches.
Balch told ITV News: “I’ve never wanted it to reopen. I understand it’s a business and it’s what they have to do. I just didn’t think it’d be so soon. If it was a worse day, we could’ve died, worse-case scenario.
“But at the end of the day it feels like the money comes before the people on the ride.”
Balch's appearance on ITV came as Washington and Pugh spoke out about the ride reopening on Good Morning Britain.
Pugh said he always thought the ride would re-open, but that "seeing it go round, it's not something I want to see."
An internal investigation by Alton Towers concluded that human error was to blame for the accident, as safety systems on the ride had been overridden manually.
The theme park has said it has since made technical improvements and changes to training and had notified the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) of its plans to reopen the ride. The HSE is prosecuting Merlin Entertainment
Balch told ITV that the ride should have remained closed until after the court case.
She added: “It’s not even been a year, it’s only been nine months and we’re all still going through everything. It’s not got easier for any of us. It’s just hard, and then to realise it’s opening again, it brings it all back.”
Gill Riley, Marketing Director at Alton Towers, told the broadcaster that the theme park understood how the victims and their families felt, and was in ongoing talks with them.
Riley went on to say Merlin Entertainment's own investigation had showed the ride was not at fault and it had been "independently certified as safe to operate".
Balch now has a hydraulic artificial leg, and is able to walk short distances unaided, but still requires physiotherapy twice a week, as well as exercises to improve her balance.
She says she will find it difficult to watch people on the ride, but knows people will still want to try it.
“I personally would never go near it again, but that’s obviously because this has happened. I went on it for a reason, I suppose because I wanted the fun aspect of it."