Park reopens ... but it just feels wrong.
Byline: MARTIN FRICKER inside Alton Towers
IT WAS supposed to be business as usual.
Staff were as chirpy as ever, the gift stores fully stocked with souvenirs.
But one look at the empty lawns and cordoned-off Smiler ride told a very different story. Alton Towers was open, but it felt like it should not have been.
As riders queued up for Nemesis and Th13teen, Leah Washington's family announced her leg had been amputated.
The screams from the rollercoasters and whoops from happy-clappy workers seemed inappropriate.
Theme park bosses had welcomed media on to the site, but allocated each organisation a PR "escort". It was more North Korea than Staffordshire.
The park's entrance looked busy enough for a Monday morning. But once inside it was clear visitor numbers were way down.
Almost immediately, security staff steered us away from the X-Sector, where The Smiler sat out of action behind a cordon.
Bosses even shut Alton Hall towers, which give a bird's eye view of The Smiler. When I asked why they were closed, an employee said: "We're not at liberty to say."
Bosses refused to give visitor numbers, but staff at times seemed to outnumber the thrill-seekers.
With queuing down to 10 minutes on most rides, some kiosks selling fast-track passes were closed.
Emily Daniels, 34, from nearby Stoke-on-Trent, said: "I come quite a bit, but it is the quietest I've ever seen it.
"I'm just praying lessons have been learned."
Shaun Smith, 19, of Crewe, Cheshire, had brought his girlfriend as a treat. He said: "The way I see it, it is probably the safest time."
SHUTDOWN The X-Sector
QUIET Fast track not needed