Alton Towers operator Merlin faces a massive fine over the horrific rollercoaster crash last year.

And the firm indicating a guilty plea to a Health and Safety offence over the Smiler crash is a “milestone along the way to psychological rehabilitation” for the victims, a lawyer representing a number of those injured has said.

Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd, which runs the Staffordshire theme park, indicated it would plead guilty to breaching the law in a hearing at North Staffordshire Justice Centre following the incident which left five people, including a University of Huddersfield student, seriously injured.

Two women - Vicky Balch and Leah Washington - required leg amputations while textile designs student Mr Pugh, Daniel Thorpe and Chandaben Chauhan were also injured when the carriage they were in collided with another that had come to a halt on the track on June 2 last year.

Mr Pugh, of Barnsley, suffered serious injuries to both his legs, with both kneecaps shattered.

Video thumbnail, Alton Towers Smiler crash victim Joe Pugh shares his horrific experience
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He underwent complex hospital treatment for many weeks and returned to the University only earlier this year.

Paul Paxton, head of personal injury at Stewarts Law, is representing a number of the victims including Ms Balch, Ms Washington and Mr Pugh.

Speaking after the hearing, he said: “It is comforting for the families that a plea of guilty has been entered rather than the victims having to endure a drawn out trial.

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“Today is not seen as a victory. The families are not motivated by retribution, but inevitably this guilty plea will be a milestone along the way to psychological rehabilitation. Regrettably the physical recovery will be a lifelong process.

“We are all grateful to the Health and Safety Executive for the thoroughness of their investigation and the way in which they have conducted themselves throughout the extensive investigation.”

Sixteen people were injured in the collision on a low section of the ride, which can reach speeds of up to 50mph and has 14 loops.

Accident at Alton Towers theme park - four seriously injured and dozens hurt after two roller coaster cars crashed into each other on the Smiler ride. Picture by Staff Photographer : Andy Stenning One of four Air Ambulances leaving Alton Towers with injured hurt on Smiler ride

The 500-acre theme park in Staffordshire was shut for four days following the smash while The Smiler, which is the world’s first 14-loop rollercoaster, only reopened in March this year.

District Judge McGarva said: “This is a case which involved a very high culpability on the part of the defendant in my view and exposed the victims to a high likelihood of very serious harm.

“This is a case involving a large organisation which may be ordered to pay a very high fine.

“Clearly this falls into a category of requiring allocation to the crown court - and that’s what I’ll do.”

The case was adjourned until a date to be fixed at Stafford Crown Court.