Top of the month: Alton Towers delivers sensitive response to roller-coaster crash

Alton Towers was praised for the way it handled its crisis comms after a devastating accident took place on its Smiler roller-coaster on 2 June.

A total of 16 people were injured when their carriage collided with an empty train on the ride in what witnesses described as a mid-air "car crash". Two of the victims were so seriously injured they each had a leg amputated.

Nick Varney, CEO of Alton Towers owner Merlin, quickly issued a heartfelt statement after the incident, apologising to the victims and their families, and the park was closed as an investigation was carried out.

Varney fronted the media interviews himself, appearing on the BBC and Sky News multiple times. He was praised for his measured responses to difficult questions, in particular when asked about how the incident would affect the share price of the company. "You’ll forgive me if I’m not really focused on the share price at the moment," he responded.

A second interview with Sky News generated much controversy on social media due to the approach of presenter Kay Burley. However, the interview only served to boost support for the Alton Towers chief and Burley was criticised for coming across as "rude and patronising", to the point where a petition was drawn up asking for Sky News to sack her.

Overall, the incident served as a textbook example of how to handle a crisis and showed the benefits of putting victims first and acting in a sensitive manner.

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