The 10-year-old son of a Kansas state representative died from injuries he sustained while going down a water slide in Kansas City, Kan., touted as the tallest waterslide in the world.
Investigators continue to probe the death of Caleb Thomas Schwab, the son of Scott and Michele Schwab of Olathe, Kan. Mr. Schwab represents the Kansas’s 49th district in the state legislature.
The accident occurred Sunday, which was “Elected Officials Day” at the Schlitterbahn water park, on the Verrückt waterslide, a 17-story structure whose name means “insane” in German. The slide requires two to three riders to be strapped into a raft that, according to the attraction’s website, “will slide down a jaw-dropping 168 foot 7 inch structure, only to be blasted back up a second massive hill and then sent down yet another gut wrenching 50 foot drop for the ultimate in water slide thrills.”
Two witnesses interviewed by the Washington Post said they arrived at the slide to witness a woman with blood streaking down her face and a young boy lying still on the ground. The gravity of the situation worsened when responders pulled a white sheet over the boy’s body, one of the witnesses said.
Investigators have not released details about the accident and the water park remains closed while authorities determine what happened.
Kansas City’s KSHB said that Caleb Schwab’s raft plunged down the main drop, then went airborne on the hill before a second smaller drop and collided with the safety netting covering the flume.
Some park guests told the media that the safety harnesses were not working properly on Sunday. “A lady in front of me said that multiple times she rode the ride today, the Verrückt, and that the front harness did not work any of the times that she rode it,” one park guest told Kansas City’s KSHB.
Another guest told KMBC in Kansas City that the boy’s older brother saw what happened: “The little boy said to a worker, ‘I just saw my little brother die because of one of your attractions. (Caleb) looked skinny. He shouldn’t have been on that ride.”
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) a review of injury data shows approximately 45,000 injuries resulting from amusement attractions and water slides nationwide have occurred over the last 20 years. About 67 percent of those injured were younger than 18. Injuries to the head and neck were the most common at 28 percent, with 1.5 percentof those leading to hospitalization.
The Verrückt waterslide opened in July 2014 after a series of design errors and safety fixes that required it to be partially torn down and rebuilt delayed the original May opening date three times.
Ride co-creator and Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeff Henry told USA Today in July 2014 that the ride isn’t for everyone.
“It’s dangerous, but it’s a safe dangerous now,” Mr. Henry said. “Schlitterbahn is a family water park, but (Verrückt) isn’t a family ride. It’s for the thrill seekers of the world, people into extreme adventure.”