Leah Washington, one of the most seriously injured victims from the Smiler crash at Alton Towers, has given her first interview since her life changed forever.
The 18 year old spent her landmark birthday in hospital while her body and mind were recovering from the trauma they suffered, that saw her left leg amputated.
Leah’s boyfriend Joe Pugh was also involved in the crash, and the couple are trying to rebuild what is left of their lives and move forward with a future that is very different to one they imagined.
In her first interview, she spoke about her life now, and the differences, not to mention difficulties she will now face:
I’m nervous for the future. My life is on hold while my friends are moving forward, having their own cars and leaving home.
I’ll have a different path and a different life. Plans that you’ve thought about in your head for the future… they’re going to be different now, because of what’s happened.
I will always have to put a leg on in the morning, or use crutches. I want to get going on my prosthetic leg, but the process of getting fitted for it is very lengthy.
For now, it’s exhausting being on crutches, but I hate going out in my wheelchair, with people staring at me. I don’t even want a stairlift.
I’m 18 – I can’t stand not being independent. My grandad offered me a blanket in my wheelchair and I said, “No, I’m not 90”. My life is just one long list of physio and hospital appointments. But I’ve got to move on and live with it.
She also spoke about the crash, after she and boyfriend Joe had been waiting in line for the ride, and had even spoken to eventual victims Vicky Balch and Daniel Thorpe in the queue.
I saw the other cart stuck on the track ahead. I didn’t think, ‘Oh my God, this is going to end badly’, I just thought it wouldn’t be nice, like a bumper car ride. I never thought it was going to be as bad as it was
I remember they cut my coat off, which I wasn’t very happy about,’ she recalls. ‘And then they gave me gas and air.’ At one point, as she struggled to stay conscious, she looked desperately at one of the paramedics tending her and asked: “Am I going to be all right?”
I only remember odd bits after that – the noise of them cutting me out and lying in an air ambulance. I was trying to look out of the window because it was the first time I’d ever been in a helicopter
Medical professionals on the scene described her as the bravest person they had ever treated, with the teenager losing a litre of blood, and being one of the last rescued in what was described as a complicated operation akin to ‘human jenga’.
Leah was asked about her feelings towards Alton Towers, who have accepted full liability for the crash and are providing compensation for the victims, something which is thought to run into the millions, and she has taken a remarkably positive view of the situation, refusing to be bitter.
I don’t feel angry. But I’d like to know what went wrong. Not to blame anybody, but to stop it happening again. The ride shouldn’t have been running. But I’m still waiting to find out what happened.
The tragic crash injured five people seriously, and saw Vicky Balch also lose her leg, with Alton Towers now seeing the park resemble a ghost town, with theme park goers avoiding it after the damage to their reputation and subsequent issues with rides.