Boy Dies of Neck Injury at Kansas Water Park

August 9, 2016

A Kansas waterslide billed as the world’s tallest remains off-limits as authorities try to figure out how a state lawmaker’s 10-year-old son died of a neck injury while riding it on Sunday.

Kansas City, Kan., police issued a statement late Monday afternoon saying that Caleb suffered a fatal neck injury around 2:30 p.m. while he was riding the Verruckt with two women, neither of whom was related to him. They suffered minor facial injuries and were treated at an area hospital, police said.

The Verruckt, a 168-foot-tall waterslide, is one of the main attractions at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City. The park was closed Monday. Schlitterbahn said in a statement on its website that the park is scheduled to reopen on Aug. 10 but the Verruckt will remain closed.

Verruckt, which means “insane” in German, was certified as the world’s tallest waterslide by Guinness World Records. Riders go down the slide in multi-person rafts and have to be at last 54 inches tall, according to the park’s website. The ride will be closed pending the investigation, park spokeswoman Winter Prosapio said.

“We honestly don’t know what’s happened,” she said at a news conference Sunday. “That’s why … a full investigation is necessary. We have to understand what’s happened.”

Authorities have not identified the child, but state Rep. Scott Schwab and his wife released a statement saying it was their son, Caleb Thomas Schwab.

“Since the day he was born, he brought abundant joy to our family and all those he came in contact with,” said the statement, which asked for privacy as the family grieves.

Authorities initially said the victim was 12 years old, but Clint Sprague, a pastor who is acting as a spokesman for the family, said Caleb was 10.

Scott Schwab is a Republican from Olathe. He and his wife, Michele, have four sons, Sprague said.

House Speaker Ray Merrick told the Kansas City Star Schwab’s family was “the center of his world.”

Prosapio said the boy’s family had been at the park with him on Sunday.

The 2014 opening of Verruckt was delayed multiple times, though the operators didn’t explain why. Two media sneak preview days in 2014 were canceled because of problems with a conveyor system that hauls 100-pound rafts to the top of the slide.

Prosapio said in 2014 that park officials would not hesitate to delay operation again for however long it takes to make sure the slide is safe.

In a news article linked to the news release announcing a 2014 delay, Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeff Henry told USA Today that he and senior designer John Schooley had based their calculations when designing the slide on roller coasters, but that didn’t translate well to a waterslide like Verruckt.

In early tests, rafts carrying sandbags flew off the slide, prompting engineers to tear down half of the ride and reconfigure some angles at a cost of $1 million, Henry said.

A promotional video for a show about building the slide includes footage of two men riding a raft down a half-size test model and going slightly airborne as it crests the top of the first big hill.

Prosapio said during the news conference that the park’s rides are inspected daily and inspected by an “outside party” before the start of each season.

Topics Kansas

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.