World’s tallest waterslide to be demolished after boy died

Associated Press
Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 168-foot-tall Kansas waterslide on which a state lawmaker’s 10-year-old son was killed in August will be demolished once the investigations of the tragedy are finished, the water park’s operators said.

Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts and the family that runs it said in a statement Tuesday that the “Verruckt” ride at the Schlitterbahn park in Kansas City, Kansas, will be permanently removed from its tower “once the investigation is concluded and we are given permission by the court.”

This June 2016 photo provided by David Strickland shows Caleb Thomas Schwab, the son of Scott Schwab, a Kansas state lawmaker from Olathe. Caleb died Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, while riding the Verruckt, a water slide that's billed as the world's largest, at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City, Kan. (David Strickland via AP)
This June 2016 photo provided by David Strickland shows Caleb Thomas Schwab, the son of Scott Schwab, a Kansas state lawmaker from Olathe. Caleb died Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, while riding the Verruckt, a water slide that’s billed as the world’s largest, at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City, Kan. (David Strickland via AP)

“In our opinion, it is the only proper course of action following this tragedy,” the statement read, adding that “all of us at Schlitterbahn have been heartbroken over the tragedy that occurred on Verruckt.”

Billed as the world’s tallest waterslide, Verruckt has been closed since Caleb Thomas Schwab died on the ride Aug. 7. The boy was decapitated, a person familiar with the investigation previously told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because that person was not authorized to speak publicly about the boy’s death.

Two women in the raft were injured.

Attorneys for Schwab family — Caleb’s father is Republican state Rep. Scott Schwab — and the women are independently investigating the accident. No charges or lawsuits had been filed as of Tuesday.

Michael Rader, an attorney for the Schwabs, told KMBC-TV that he had been working with Schlitterbahn and its legal team on a plan to eventually remove the slide, but said it “cannot be torn down until all investigations and potential litigation has concluded.” Scott Schwab didn’t respond to a text message seeking comment Wednesday.

Lynn Johnson, an attorney for the women, said in August that his clients “want answers and assurances from Schlitterbahn that that slide will be corrected or not continue to be in operation,” saying there would be litigation, if necessary. He didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment Wednesday.

FILE - This Nov. 2013 file photo shows Schlitterbahn's new Verruckt speed slide/water coaster in Kansas City, Kan. A 12-year-old boy died Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, on the Kansas water slide that is billed as the world's largest, according to officials. Kansas City, Kan., police spokesman Officer Cameron Morgan said the boy died at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark, which is located about 15 miles west of downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Schlitterbahn spokeswoman Winter Prosapio said the child died on one of the park's main attractions, Verruckt, a 168-foot-tall water slide that has 264 stairs leading to the top. (Jill Toyoshiba/The Kansas City Star via AP, File)
FILE – This Nov. 2013 file photo shows Schlitterbahn’s new Verruckt speed slide/water coaster in Kansas City, Kan. A 12-year-old boy died Aug. 7, 2016. Schlitterbahn spokeswoman Winter Prosapio said the child died on one of the park’s main attractions, Verruckt, a 168-foot-tall water slide that has 264 stairs leading to the top. (Jill Toyoshiba/The Kansas City Star via AP, File)

Verruckt, which is German for “insane,” featured multi-person rafts that made a 17-story drop at speeds of up to 70 mph, followed by a surge up a hump and a 50-foot descent to a finishing pool.

Riders were required to be at least 54 inches tall. They were harnessed with two nylon seatbelt-like straps, one crossing the rider’s lap, the other stretching diagonally like a car shoulder seatbelt. Each strap is held in place by long straps that close with fabric fasteners, not buckles. Riders hold ropes inside the raft.

Riders are weighed to ensure that each raft carries between 400 pounds and 550 pounds.

The regulation of waterslides and other amusement rides has drawn scrutiny since Caleb’s death. Kansas is known for its light regulation of amusement park rides, and the Texas-based company that operates Schlitterbahn lobbied legislators to help ensure that it remained responsible for its own inspections.

Kansas requires annual inspections of permanent amusement park rides but allows private inspectors to do the checks. A document released by the state Department of Labor after Caleb’s death showed that all of Schlitterbahn’s rides passed private inspections in June.

Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts said in its statement Tuesday that it has been cooperating with investigators and the victims’ families and attorneys, noting that “the safety of our staff and our guests is our top priority.”

“In our 50 years of providing an environment for families and friends to gather,” the statement read, “we’ve never experienced this kind of devastating event.”

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