In 2016, 10-year-old Caleb Schwab was enjoying a day at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas with his family when he and his brother decided to ride the park’s highly anticipated water slide called the “Verrückt.”
As the Independent Journal Review reported at the time, the “Verrückt” stood 17 stories high— the tallest water slide in the world. Because each raft needed to hold a certain weight, the Schwab brothers went down the slide at different times.
Caleb was placed in a raft with two women, and when it was their turn the hook and loop harness meant to keep Caleb secure broke, ejecting him from his seat and causing him to hit his head on the safety netting that surrounded them.
This is Caleb Schwab, the young boy killed on the Verruckt water slide at Schlitterbahn in Kansas City pic.twitter.com/E8PXViqa6t
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) August 8, 2016
Caleb was decapitated.
Following the horrific incident, many began to wonder if the “Verrückt” — which has since been demolished — should have been open to the public in the first place. Prior to its opening, the water slide revealed a host of issues including water rafts flying off the side of the slide.
During its grand opening, the Verrückt creator and Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeff Henry said of the slide:
“It’s dangerous, but it’s a safe dangerous now. Schlitterbahn is a family water park, but this isn’t a family ride. It’s for thrill seekers of the world, people into extreme adventure.”
Now, nearly two years after the incident, Henry has been arrested and charged with reckless second-degree murder.Cameron County Jail
According to People, more people involved in the making of the “Verrückt” were also charged with reckless second-degree murder, including John Timothy Schooley, who was another designer of the slide, and Henry & Sons Construction Company, Inc., the corporation involved in the slide’s construction.
Henry is currently being held without bail and is expected to make a court appearance on Thursday, March 29. As People reports, Schooley is not yet in custody.
Henry, Schooley, and the construction company were also charged with aggravated battery and aggravated endangering a child after 13 other people came forward saying they also suffered injuries after riding the “Verrückt.”
The Schlitterbahn Waterpark and the park’s Director of Operations, Tyler Austin Miles, were indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter. Miles was additionally charged with two counts of interference with law enforcement.
The charges came after video evidence showed Caleb “obeying all rider instructions at the time of his death.”
According to court documents, Henry “rushed the slide into operation and skipped fundamental steps in the design process”:
Experts in the field of amusement ride design and safety examined Verrückt and found physical evidence which indicated that other rafts had gone airborne and collided with the overhead hoops and netting before the fatality.
Court documents contend that “in place of mathematical and physics calculations,” the defendants “rushed forward relying almost entirely on crude trial-and-error methods.”
The indictment said the waterslide’s rafts “violated nearly all aspects of the longstanding industry safety standards,” and that both Henry and Schooley knew the rafts were “still going airborne in the days before Verrückt’s grand opening to the public.”
— Slate (@Slate) August 10, 2016
A statement released to People by a spokesperson for the park read:
The allegation that we operated, and failed to maintain, a ride that could foreseeably cause such a tragic accident is beyond the pale of speculation. Many of us, and our children and grandchildren, have ridden the ride with complete confidence as to its safety. Our operational mantra has been and will forever be Safety First … We have operated with integrity from day one at the waterpark — as we do throughout our waterparks and resorts. We put our guests and employees safety first, and safety and maintenance are at the top of our list of priorities.
We as a company and as a family will fight these allegations and have confidence that once the facts are presented it will be clear that what happened on the ride was an unforeseeable accident.
During the civil matter, attorneys involved noted that we cooperated fully, provided thousands of documents, and that nothing was withheld or tampered with. The secret Grand Jury never heard one word from us directly, nor were we allowed to provide contradictory evidence. And we have plenty.
This story is far from over.
On Monday, Caleb’s family expressed their appreciation for all the support they have received over the last 18 months in a statement to People:
While we as a family continue to mourn and heal from Caleb’s passing, we wanted to again thank the community of Kansas City for its continued prayers and support. While we have no control over the investigation, we have full faith and trust in Attorney General Derek Schmidt and his office as relates to last week’s indictments, as well as any other decisions that office may make going forward. Clearly the issues with Schlitterbahn go far beyond Caleb’s incident, and we know the Attorney General will take appropriate steps in the interest of public safety.
The Schwab family previously reached a $20 million settlement with Schlitterbahn and others involved in their son’s death.