Kansas state legislators have advanced a new bill that would toughen the state’s amusement ride safety laws months after the 10-year-old son of a Kansas Republican lawmaker was decapitated on a 17-story waterslide.
The bill will go to the House floor and will have to be approved by the full chamber. It currently seems to have broad bi-partisan support among the assembly’s Democrats, moderate Republicans, and far-right Republicans, the Kansas City Star reported.
Republican Rep. John Barker of Abilene, who pushed for better regulations, told the Kansas City Star that the bill is a “comprehensive first step” because it covers a multitude of issues.
The bill would require amusement parks to report injuries to riders and levy a new fee on amusement park owners that would help fund enforcement of the stricter laws. Penalties amusement parks pay for safety violations would go to a safety fund administered by the Kansas Department of Labor so that inspectors could go to the park and inspect rides of concern.
Rides would also have to be reviewed by “qualified inspectors,” including professional engineers experienced in amusement ride inspections and certified by third-party organizations such as the National Associations of Amusement Ride Safety Officials.
Current state laws, which one Wichita Republican representative called “quite pitiful,” mandate very minimal oversight of amusement parks and rides.
State lawmakers were motivated by the death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab, who died going down the Veruckt waterslide in Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City, Kansas, Aug. 7, 2016. The slide, touted by park owners as the tallest waterslide in the world, continued to operate despite multiple safety failures and rider concerns.
Caleb was the son of Republican Rep. Scott Schwab of Olathe, Kansas. The Schwab family reached a settlement with Schlitterbahn Waterpark’s owners in January for an undisclosed amount.
Rep. Schwab has not commented on the new bill, the Kansas City Star reported.