The two men who designed the water slide where a 10-year-old boy was decapitated in 2016 were arrested and charged with second degree murder.
Kansas City’s Schlitterbahn amusement park advertised its ride Verrückt — German for “crazy” — as the tallest water slide in the world when it was first opened in 2014. The ride’s designers and operators are being charged with the boy’s death.
Police arrested Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeffrey Henry Monday. Henry also helped design the ride with lead contractor and architect John Schooley. Both are facing multiple charges including reckless second-degree murder.
Former park director of operations Tyler Austin Miles was charged with involuntary manslaughter and a slew of aggravated assault and child endangerment crimes.
Caleb Schwab got on the Verrückt Aug. 7, 2016, while attending a free day at the park for lawmakers, which included his father, Republican state Rep. Scott Schwab. Caleb suffered fatal injuries when his raft became airborne as the 17-story ride’s steep drop turned into an incline. Hoops fixed over the ride decapitated Schwab but were designed to prevent rafts from flying off — which, according to investigators, were a poorly designed fix to a shoddily constructed ride the park operators knew was dangerous.
An indictment against the three men alleged Henry rushed Verrückt’s design and construction in order to impress the producers of the Travel Channel’s Xtreme Waterparks series.
“I must communicate reality to all. Time, is of the essence. No time to die,” Henry said in an email in late 2012.
“This is a designed product for TV, absolutely cannot be anything else. Speed is 100% required. A floor a day. Tough schedule,” he said in another email.
Henry had the idea to construct the ride in November 2012 and wanted to complete it by summer 2013 — a short seven-month turnaround. The problem was, Henry and Schooley, who run Schlitterbahn in-house contractor Henry and Sons Construction Company Inc., had no expertise, according to authorities.
The park pushed back the opening multiple times but finally went ahead with the grand opening in 2014.
Henry was also aware of the ride’s dangers and communicated his concerns to the team as they came closer to the grand opening.
“Verrückt could hurt me; it could kill me; it is a seriously dangerous piece of equipment today because there are things that we don’t know about it,” Henry said, according to the indictment. “I’ve seen what this one had done to the crash dummies and to the boats we sent down it. Ever since the prototype. And we had boats flying in the prototype too. It’s complex; it’s fast; it’s mean. If we mess up, it could be the end. I could die going down this ride.”
The team also considered putting age restrictions on the ride. They even printed signage limiting the ride to children over 14; but the day before the July 8, 2014, opening, they decided to allow all ages on the ride and placed stickers over the age limitations.
Between the time Verrückt opened in July 2014 and closed after Schwab’s death, there were least 13 reported ride-related injuries — including concussion, multiple neck injuries, slipped and herniated spinal disks and broken toes.
“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,” Schlitterbahn spokeswoman Winter Prosapio told the Houston Chronicle in a statement.
The former operator believed the ride to be safe, defense attorneys for Miles said.
“Not only had Tyler ridden the slide numerous times, but, as the State is aware, he had scheduled his wife to ride it on the day of the accident,” Tom and Tricia Bath, Miles’ attorneys, said in a statement. “These are not the actions of someone who believed the ride to be dangerous.”
Caleb Schwab’s family was awarded nearly $20 million from Schlitterbahn and other companies involved with the waterslide construction in 2017.
“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 said in a statement.
A version of this article appeared on The Daily Caller News Foundation website.
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