Individuals and companies involved in the ownership, operation, and construction of the Verrückt waterslide in Kansas City, Kansas, find themselves facing charges of murder and other serious crimes over the death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab.
Caleb, the son of Kansas State Representative Scott Schwab, was decapitated when his raft went airborne on a hill of the Verrückt waterslide on Aug. 7, 2016. The 17-story waterslide was named the world’s tallest waterslide by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2014, shortly after it opened in the Schlitterbahn Waterpark in 2012.
On Tuesday, March 27, a Wyandotte County grand jury indicted Jeffrey Wayne Henry, a co-owner of Schlitterbahn Companies and a designer of the waterslide; John Timothy Schooley, also a designer of the slide; and Henry & Sons Construction Company, Inc., the corporation involved in the slide’s construction.
According to People, the three defendants were indicted on counts of reckless second-degree murder, aggravated battery, and aggravated endangering a child.
Last week, the grand jury indicted Schlitterbahn Waterpark and its former director of operations, Tyler Austin Miles, on charges of involuntary manslaughter. Mr. Miles was also charged with two additional counts of interference with law enforcement, while Schlitterbahn was charged with one interference count.
The criminal charges center on the waterslide’s alleged design flaws and history of personal injury. The March 27 indictment states that waterslide had a “long list of dangerous design flaws” that allowed rafts to travel too fast, with speeds reaching 70 mph, and propelled the rafts into the air.
The indictment alleges that Mr. Henry “skipped fundamental steps in the design process” and rushed the slide into operation despite its dangers.
“Experts in the field of amusement ride design and safety examined Verrückt and found physical evidence which indicated that other rafts had gone airborne and collided with the overhead hoops and netting before the fatality,” the indictment alleges, according to People.
Experts who inspected the ride after Caleb Schwab’s death found the rafts “violated nearly all aspects of the longstanding industry safety standards,” the indictment states.
Mr. Schwab, a Republican, indicated in statements that he supports the indictments. “While we have no control over the investigation, we have full faith and trust in Attorney General Derek Schmidt and his office as relates to last week’s indictments, as well as any other decisions that office may make going forward.”
The Schwab family reached a settlement with the waterpark and affiliates last year for $20 million. Shortly after his son’s death, Mr. Schwab voiced support for legislation toughening government regulations and oversight of amusement parks in Kansas.