Image: Merlin Attractions Operation Image: Merlin Attractions Operation

Merlin Attractions Operations, the owner of Alton Towers, will be prosecuted over the crash on the Smiler rollercoaster which forced two young women to have their leg amputated.

Sixteen people were injured, five seriously, after their carriage collided with a stationery one in June last year.

Merlin will appear before North Staffordshire Justice Centre on 22 April charged under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Neil Craig, head of operations for The Health and Safety Executive in the Midlands, said: "This was a serious incident with life-changing consequences for five people.

"We have conducted a very thorough investigation and consider that there is sufficient evidence and that it is in the public interest to bring a prosecution."

In November, Alton Towers said "human error" was to blame for the crash, explaining that staff misunderstood a message to shutdown the rollercoaster, instead restarting it without taking proper safety precautions. Earlier that moth, Alton Towers said it could be forced to cut 190 jobs as a result of the crash.

Separately, Merlin actually reported a slight increase in annual profits for 2015, despite the effect the crash had on business. Alton Towers said it saw a "significant" drop in visitor numbers following the crash. Profits were up 0.3% to £250 million for the year.

A few weeks after the crash, Merlin said the accident could cost the company nearly £50m.