Smiler crash: Leah Washington and Joe Pugh's journey from Alton Towers horror to dream wedding

Leah Washington and Joe Pugh have got married
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A couple who were seriously injured in an Alton Towers rollercoaster accident nearly 10 years ago have tied the knot in a dream wedding ceremony surrounded by their nearest and dearest.

Leah Washington and Joe Pugh, who got engaged in March 2022, celebrated with a drinks reception at the picturesque Woodlands Hotel in Leeds. The bride was radiant in her white gown, complete with a veil and exquisite jewellery, while the groom looked dapper in his tuxedo and bow tie.

The pair have overcome significant challenges since the catastrophic Smiler ride crash in 2015, with Leah once confessing that she and Joe had "drifted apart" during their recovery, reports the Mirror..

On June 2, 2014, after dating for just six weeks, Leah, then a sixth-form student, and 18 year old Joe decided on a whim to visit Alton Towers. Recounting the events to the Daily Mirror two months post-accident, Leah said: "I wanted to go on Sonic Spinball but Joe said there's no point queuing for ages because it's not that good. He suggested we go on The Smiler. I was scared because I'd never been on it before. I wanted to go on a ride I'd already been on."

"After an hour and a half wait we were sent to queue for the front row.. We sat down but they lifted the safety bars up after 10 minutes, saying there was a technical difficulty and we had to get off.

"We were waiting ages and I said to Joe, 'let's go'. But when you've queued that long, you wait."

Both Leah and Joe suffered serious injuries in the crash. Leah's leg was later amputated and Joe had shattered knees.

Despite the devastating accident, Leah remained positive. During her first interview, she showed off her sparkly blue crutches donated by Crystals and Crutches and talked excitedly about being on the guest list for a gig by her favourite band, One Direction.

The boys sent her a video message as letters and gifts from well wishers poured into the hospital. "I want to say thank you to everyone," said Leah.

She was discharged from the hospital on July 22 and turned 18 six days later. "I didn't want to be in hospital for my 18th," she said.

"I had a good birthday at home but it just wasn't what I expected it to be. I've missed out on so much."

Leah shared her harrowing experience of being trapped in the wreckage of a rollercoaster, revealing that she nearly lost her life twice as medical professionals battled to save her. She said: "I think of all the people who were in the park that day and I ask myself, why were we at the front of the ride when it happened? Why us? But I wouldn't wish this on anyone else."

She confessed feeling apprehensive about what lay ahead due to the severity of her injuries. She said: "It hasn't really sunk in yet but I'm nervous for the future, because I'll have a different path and a different life. I'm always going to have to put my leg on in the morning or use crutches. But I've got to move on and live with it. I just want to start my life again."

Merlin, the owner of Alton Towers, was slapped with a £5million fine for the crash which resulted in five passengers sustaining life-altering injuries and several others seriously injured. Judge Michael Chambers QC criticised Merlin Attractions Operations' safety measures as "woefully inadequate" and a "shambles" during his scathing remarks about the Smiler crash.

He further commented: "This was a needless and avoidable accident in which those injured were fortunate not to have been killed or to have bled to death."

The two-day sentencing at Stafford Crown Court heard how the crash was akin to a 90mph car accident and that the victims waited nearly an hour in mid-air before paramedics could reach the rollercoaster.

Leah and Joe announced their engagement two years ago during a romantic holiday in Italy, sharing the joyous news on social media. Leah posted a picture of herself with Joe, beaming as she displayed her new engagement ring.

"So this happened yesterday... I SAID YES," she shared.

In an earlier interview, Leah confessed that she initially "drifted apart" from Joe, who is now her husband, as she grappled with the life-altering injuries she sustained in a crash. She explained that they had only been officially together for a week when the accident occurred, which put a strain on their relationship as she was unable to care for herself.

"If you'd told either of us during the weeks that followed our horrific accident at Alton Towers that we'd be planning our wedding now, I don't think we'd have believed it," the influencer revealed to OK! Magazine.

This weekend, the couple finally said their vows and celebrated their special day in Leeds. They were seen smiling and engaging with guests during the drinks reception, accompanied by live piano music.

Exclusive photos from the ceremony depict the pair laughing and enjoying time with their loved ones. The wedding guests looked stylish in suits and vibrant dresses.

One of the images shows Leah, hailing from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, holding a drink and sharing a smile with her guests at the intimate ceremony.