Kansas prosecutors have suggested that the water slide where a 10-year-old boy was killed in 2016 was completed in a hurry to impress TV producers for a reality show.
A 20-count indictment says Schlitterbahn Water Park executives “ignored warnings,” “destroyed documents” and “skirted basic engineering flaws” as they forged ahead with the grand opening.
Officials arrested the co-owner of a Kansas City water park Monday on a variety of charges connected to the death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab.
Jeffrey Henry, 62, was arrested in Cameron County, Texas, on 12 counts of aggravated battery and five counts of aggravated child endangerment, an online database shows.
The prosecutors allege that Henry created the waterslide “in a spur-of-the-moment bid to impress” producers for the Travel Channel show, Xtreme Waterparks, and did not conduct the correct engineering and safety tests.
“Henry openly admitted that one of his principal motivations in building Verrückt was to flaunt his achievements in the faces of other water park owners,” the indictment said, quoting from an internal document. “Hey guys, come on! Are you gonna let me have the bragging rights? Because I’m gonna brag a lot! We are the tallest ride in the world!”
The slide was called “Verrückt,” the German word for “crazy” or “insane” and was opened in 2016 at the Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City. It was billed as “the world’s tallest water slide” and is the same height as Niagara Falls.
In August 2016, young Caleb, the son of Kansas State Rep. Scott Schwab, was decapitated when he was thrown from the 17-story slide.
The indictment says that before the boy’s death, 13 other riders suffered injuries since its opening in 2014. The ride closed after Schwab’s passing.
The park’s former director of operations, Tyler Austin Miles, has also been criminally charged in connection with the boy’s death.
Henry was quoted in the indictment as saying, “[Verrückt] could hurt me, it could kill me, it is a seriously dangerous piece of equipment today because there are things that we don’t know about it.”
In a statement, released by his attorney, Miles, who has plead not guilty, said he had “scheduled his wife to ride on [Verrückt] on the day of the accident. These are not the actions of someone who believed the ride to be dangerous.”
One of the designers of the ride, John Schooley, was also indicted. During a 2014 episode of the Travel Chanel show, he openly expressed concern about the ride’s safety.
Conception of the ride to its grand opening took just 20 months.
In a statement, Schlitterbahn said it is confident that when all the facts are presented, it will be clear that what happened on the ride was an unforeseeable accident. A spokeswoman said “Our staff, since we opened Schlitterbahn Kansas City, has demonstrated the highest dedication to safety, from the training of our lifeguards and ride operators, to ensuring all rides have operated in accordance with our strict protocols.” She added, “Our team has been conscientious and committed to providing visitors to the waterpark a safe and enjoyable experience. We are shocked by any allegations of impropriety or negligence on the part of anyone associated with Verruckt.”
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