New details have emerged about the death of the 10-year-old boy who was killed on the world’s tallest waterslide in Kansas Sunday, indicating serious safety failures contributed to the horrific accident.
Caleb Schwab, the son of a Kansas state lawmaker who was at the Schlitterbahn Kansas City water park with his family on “Elected Officials Day,” died after descending the “Verrückt” slide. The slide’s designers wanted to offer an extreme attraction to guests and created a 17-story vertical drop that ascends a second hill, followed by a second 50-foot drop.
Various verified reports say the raft Caleb was seated in failed to meet the minimum combined weight of 400 pounds. The boy sat in the front of the three-person raft, in front of two women he did not know.
Why ride operators sat Caleb and the women in that order and let them go down without meeting the safe weight requirements remains unclear, but some guests have noted that the scale at top of the slide was not working on Sunday.
Things went wrong when the raft crested the second hill. At that point, Caleb’s Velcro safety straps failed, the same way several park guests that day reported experiencing problems with the Velcro safety harnesses coming loose and falling off.
Unsecured, Caleb was launched into the safety netting covering the slide. Cresting the hill at more than 65 mph, Caleb was decapitated when his head struck one of the metal hoops keeping the netting in place above the slide.
Witnesses saw Caleb’s lifeless body float down the slide after the raft.
Ken Martin, an amusement ride safety analyst and consultant from Virginia, told KCTV 5 that the Schlitterbahn water park is not doing enough to keep guests safe on the Verrückt.
“They tell us there’s a weight limit on the slide. How do we know they are actually weighing each person? How do we know they’re weighing the tubes? How do we know all of this is consistently done day-to-day?” Mr. Martin asked.
He added that when states like Kansas fail to adequately regulate amusements for safety, then it’s time for the federal government to step in with consistent safety rules.
“If the states are not doing to do it and do it consistently across the country, all on the same level, same page as the hymn book, and sing all in key, then the feds need to come in and do it,” Mr. Martin told KCTV 5.
The Kansas Department of Labor has the authority to inspect amusement rides at random, but there is no evidence that state regulators conduct such inspections, leaving it to amusement park operators to self-regulate.
Schlitterbahn park officials said the Verrückt waterslide would not reopen this season. Other portions of the park reopened on Wednesday.