- The video was filmed before the ride opened in July 2014
- There wasn’t a safety net enclosing the chute to retain the rafts
- The safety net was added later, before the ride opened
- Opening date of the 168-foot-high Verrückt slide was twice delayed
- Caleb Schwab, 10, died on Sunday while riding the slide in Kansas City
- Witnesses say he was decapitated after flying off a raft
Khaleda Rahman For Dailymail.com
10:24 EST, 10 August 2016
11:12 EST, 10 August 2016
Terrifying footage has emerged of rafts on the world’s tallest waterslide flying off into the air, two years before a 10-year-old boy was killed on the same ride.
Caleb Schwab, son of Kansas State Rep. Scott Schwab, died on Sunday while riding the 168-foot-high Verrückt slide at Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City.
Witnesses described gruesome scenes at the theme park, saying they saw the boy fly out of the raft, through the harness, and hit the safety netting above where he was beheaded.
The Verruckt slide did not feature a safety net enclosing the chute to keep the rafts secured in early 2014, when it was filmed for the Travel Channel’s Xtreme Waterparks series.
The Verruckt slide did not feature a safety net enclosing the chute to keep the rafts secured in early 2014 when it was filmed for the Travel Channel’s Xtreme Waterparks series
Caleb Schwab, son of Kansas State Rep. Scott Schwab, died on Sunday while riding the 168-foot-high Verrückt slide at Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City
The ride was also half the size it eventually turned out to be.
The original May 2014 opening date for the ride was pushed back after early tests showed rafts carrying sandbags flying off the slide, prompting engineers to tear down half of the ride and reconfigure some angles.
Two media sneak preview days in 2014 were also canceled because of problems with a conveyor system that hauls the 100-pound rafts to the top of the slide.
A promotional video about building the slide includes footage of two men riding a raft down a half-size test model and going slightly airborne as it crests the top of the first big hill.
The original May 2014 opening date for the ride was pushed back after early tests showed rafts carrying sandbags flying off the slide
Witnesses say Caleb flew off the ride at around 50ft from the ground and hit the netting
The waterpark realised additional changes needed to be made – they added velcro seat belts and weight restrictions for safety, added an extra five feet to the ‘hill’ and reduced the ride’s slope to decrease speed.
The slide didn’t actually start taking riders until July 2014, according to KMBC 9, and the Travel Channel aired their behind-the-scenes footage of the rafts flying off the chute in June that year.
‘We had many issues on the engineering side,’ Verrückt creator and Schlitterbahn co-owner, Jeff Henry, told USA Today.
‘A lot of our math was based on roller coasters at first, and that didn’t translate to a water slide like this. No one had ever done anything like this before.’
Henry tested out the ride himself and described it ‘like jumping off the Empire State Building. It’s the scariest thing I’ve done.’
The video resurfaced on the same day as a Kansas lawmaker called for closer regulation of water park rides after Caleb was ‘decapitated’ when thrown from the waterslide’s raft.
The youngster was just ten years old when he was killed in the horrific accident. The ride used to have a minimum age restriction of 14
This file photo shows Schlitterbahn’s 168-foot-tall Verruckt speed slide/water coaster in Kansas City, Kansas
Since the youngster’s tragic death, multiple people have come forward to share their terrifying close calls on the ride after they the waterslide’s safety straps malfunctioned.
Now Kansas Senator David Haley is demanding better regulation of amusement parks in the state to keep the public safe.
Kansas has some of the weakest regulation of rides in the United States. State law allows officials to conduct spot safety inspections, but employees in that department have been slashed by a third in recent years.
A Schlitterbahn employee told FOX 4 she had never seen a single state inspection in the multiple years she has worked there. She added that the only inspection the park ever carried out was ‘people riding down slides one time – “oh, it’s okay”,’ she said she was told.
Winter Prosapio, spokesperson for Schlitterbahn, insisted on Sunday that the park’s rides are inspected daily and by an ‘outside party’ before the start of each season.
Kansas Senator David Haley (pictured) is demanding better regulation of amusement parks in the state to keep the public safe
State inspectors reportedly last checked the waterpark in 2012, well before the Verruckt opened in 2014.
State law leaves it to the Kansas Department of Labor to adopt rules and regulations relating to certification and inspection of rides, adding that an amusement ride at a permanent location ‘shall be self-inspected by a qualified inspector at least every 12 months.’
Regulations require only that owners of permanent amusement rides retain records for a year and rides are randomly selected quarterly for a records audit.
Kenneth Conrad (center) rode the Verruckt ride at at Schlitterbahn Waterpark with his best friend Matt (right, without his harness)
Matt’s Velcro harness snapped off after the first drop – and he was forced to hold on until the end with just his hands as the ride reached speeds of up to 65 miles an hour
Documents released Tuesday by the state department showed that in June 2012, a records audit found that the park was not maintaining records of testing for current and previous years. The report said that instead of such testing, ‘visual inspections are conducted annually and daily.’ There was no record of a state response, and the audit was marked ‘pass.’
There were no indications of further records audits, and department officials did not immediately answer questions about why that was so.
The state requested documentation from Schlitterbahn ‘to ensure all safety requirements have been followed.’ Department officials didn’t immediately provide additional details.
Kansas Police Department issued the above statement in response to the death of Caleb Schwab on the Verruckt Water slide
Haley said: ‘In light of the tragic accident, I hope there will be a review of existing policies to see if there is a need… for additional oversight.’
That could include state inspections or a legal requirement for theme parks to be regularly checked by an independent inspector.
Police are investigating the death of Schwab as a criminal case although police spokesman Cameron Morgan said Tuesday that designation did not mean they suspect foul play.
Kansas City Police confirmed the boy had died from a ‘fatal neck injury at the end of the ride, in the pool’.
Kobey Lyons told the Dailymail.com that he’d been told by woman at the park that day that the velcro straps on the ride were not working properly on the day of the tragedy.
The height requirement to ride Verruckt is at least 54 inches tall and riders must be at least 14 years old, according to the park’s website. Riders have to climb the ride’s 264 steps to the top before taking the 168-foot plunge at 65 mph
He said that blood was spotted ‘all over the slide’ which had tarps thrown over it to cover it. The boy’s body was covered up with a sheet.
Two women, still strapped into the raft, were injured with another witnesses describing one as having blood pouring down her face. One of those women’s jaw was broken and the other had a broken face bone, according to reports.
The front seat of the raft – where Schwab most likely sat – was empty.
WHY WASN’T WORLD’S TALLEST SLIDE INSPECTED?
There are no federal inspection laws for waterparks in the U.S., and inspections are handled on a state-by-state basis. State inspectors reportedly last checked the waterpark in 2012, well before the Verruckt opened.
‘All of the regulations are really done at the state and local level with respect to amusement parks and waterparks.
‘There are no federal standards and so it really is up to the park operators, the manufacturers of the rides and the states to make sure this is a safe environment,’ said Deborah Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council.’
Each rider on the Verruckt must be at least 54 inches tall, and the group’s weight is limited to a total of 400 to 550 pounds.
Riders are harnessed in with two nylon seatbelt-like straps — one that crosses the rider’s lap, the other stretching diagonally like a car shoulder seatbelt. Each strap is held in place by long Velcro-style straps, not by buckles.
Ken Martin, a Richmond, Virginia-based amusement park safety consultant, questioned whether the straps were appropriate for what he called ‘nothing more than a roller coaster with water.’
Paul Oberhauser told local television station KCTV his shoulder restraint ‘busted loose’ on his Verruckt raft July 26.
‘As soon as I hit the bottom of the first curve the shoulder strap just kind of busted loose,’ Oberhauser said.
He said he had to grip the handles using his legs and told park staff what happened once he got down.
‘They kinda said, “Oh no, really,” or something, “Yes, that’s not good.” And so it sounded like you know they were gonna do something about it,’ Oberhauser said.
The Nebraska man said he ‘just held on,’ and a video shot by his wife shows the strap loose at the ride’s end. Oberhauser said he reported the matter to park workers.
Caleb was understood to be sat at the front of the raft and was ejected as it hit the second drop (pictured) some 50ft from the ground. The two female passengers behind Caleb suffered serious facial injuries as he left the raft and hit the netting above
Kenneth Conrad told WDAF-TV that during his trip down the waterslide last year with a friend, the friend’s shoulder strap came ‘completely off.’
‘As we were going down, we went down the first one, and as we were approaching the second one, he was in the back and you could hear him say that his strap came off and when we hit, he was real tense, shaken, because his strap had come completely off and literally he was using all of his force to hold him onto the slide,’ Conrad told Fox4.
Matt did not file a complaint after his harness came off during the ride that day last year, but after Schwab’s death, he is planning to report the incident.
Conrad’s wife Erica, who snapped a picture of her husband and Matt on the ride – which showed the latter’s harness missing – says the news of the boy’s death is ‘devastating.’
Kansas City Police confirmed Caleb (pictured) had died from a ‘fatal neck injury at the end of the ride’
SCHLITTERBAHN WATERPARK SUED THREE TIMES SINCE OPENING IN 2014
The Schlitterbahn waterpark, in Kansas city – where Caleb Schwab tragically died on the Verruckt ride Sunday, has been sued three times for negligence since 2014.
In March 2014, Linda Stomboly sued the water park alleging she was seriously injured in August 2012 on the King Kaw white water rapids attraction, KCUR reports.
She said her flotation tube collided with another tube during the descent sending her flying.
While trying to get back in her tube, her leg became stuck ‘resulting in multiple spiral fractures of her tibia and fibula,’ according to the suit, which was settled for $20,000.
Robert Boepple filed his lawsuit just two months later claiming he suffered injuries to his head, neck, back, arm and spine when his toe got caught on a ‘protruding item’ on the Boogie Bahn surfing ride.
His case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
The third suit was brought by Frances Logan which alleged she had been severely injured on the park’s King Kong River ride when the inner tube she was riding tipped over and her left foot hit a concrete wall.
She claimed there were no lifeguards on duty at the time to help and she had to be saved from the water by waterpark customers.
Her case was also settled, according to her lawyer.
‘I think they designed this ride, and they figured since stuff was flying out, we better do something to keep people from flying out,’ he said. ‘I think we have a serious issue with the restraint system. Period.’
Although he has not seen or ridden Verruckt, Martin said a more solid restraint system that fits over the body — similar to those used in roller coasters — may have been better.
The park’s spokeswoman didn’t return messages Tuesday from reporters seeking comment on the claims.
The Verruckt- German for insane – is the highest waterslide in the world. It remained closed today amid the investigation.
One report says that it used to have an age restriction of 14 when the ride opened at Schlitterbahn in 2014.
Schlitterbahn has been sued three times since 2014 although never for the waterslide (file picture). Paul Oberhauser who visited the park two weeks ago told CBS News that his velcro safety belt came off while riding with a friend and his 9-year-old son about two weeks ago
Caleb’s heartbroken family were seen crying at the waterpark on Sunday (pictured left is a file image of the boy’s father Rep Scott Schwab at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kansas in 2015) Pictured right is the Verruckt safety board at the park
It also had a minimum height of 54 inches and a combined weight of all riders in the raft to be between 400 and 550 pounds.
But officials scrapped the age restriction, deeming the height requirement sufficient.
An image, obtained by Heavy, shows netting being removed from a portion of the ride following the tragic incident on Sunday.
State Rep. Scott Schwab, an Olathe Republican, and his wife, Michele, released a statement asking for privacy as the family grieves.
‘Since the day he was born, he brought abundant joy to our family and all those he came in contact with,’ the statement said.
Caleb’s death is not the first at a Schlitterbahn facility. In 2013, lifeguard Nico Benavides, 20, was killed at the company’s park on South Padre Island, Texas, when a mechanical door slammed on the guard’s head.
The park was hit with fines of $96,000 although they settled for $66,000.
Meanwhile, the Kansas Schlitterbahn has been sued three times for negligence since 2014, although none were related to the Verrückt water slide,KCUR reports.
SAFETY ISSUES AND STATISTICS ABOUT WATER PARKS IN THE U.S.
The waters are shallow and lifeguards are seemingly everywhere at the proliferating number of water parks around the U.S. But the death over the weekend of a Kansas state lawmaker’s 10-year-old son on a waterslide billed as the world’s largest is the latest example that dangers lurk in the appealing slides and wave pools.
State Rep. Scott Schwab and his wife say their son, Caleb Thomas Schwab, died Sunday at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City. It opened in 2010, one of five water parks operated by the New Braunfels, Texas-based corporation, Schlitterbahn Waterparks & Resorts. One of its most popular attractions, 168-foot-tall Verruckt, which means ‘insane’ in German, opened in 2014.
The Kansas City park remained closed Monday as the investigation into what caused the death on the waterslide.
Here’s a look at water parks, their safety and statistics:
HOW MANY WATER PARKS ARE THERE?
About 1,300 water parks operated in North America a year ago, up about 30 percent from a decade ago, according to the trade group World Waterpark Association. Those parks attracted about 85 million people in 2015, compared to about 73 million in 2004. A growing segment of the industry has been municipal-run water parks, as cities and counties look to boost revenue from what their flat-water pools deliver.
HOW SAFE ARE WATER PARKS?
No figures are available for overall water park injuries, but the Red Cross cited U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates when it launched updated training efforts last year for lifeguards who work at water parks. Those showed more than 4,200 people a year taken to emergency rooms to be treated for scrapes, concussions, broken limbs, spinal injuries and other such injuries suffered on public waterslides. Those numbers do not include other water park injuries or those who need lifeguard assistance without a hospital trip.
Drownings also occur. In July 2015, one drowning and at least three near-drownings were reported at U.S. water parks.
WHAT DANGERS LURK AT WATER PARKS?
As the parks proliferate, concern has grown about the risks present even when most of the water is shallower than 3 feet – people who aren’t good swimmers, especially young children, mixed with the unexpected hit of waves and falls that can lead to concussions or even drownings.
WHAT’S BEEN DONE TO IMPROVE SAFETY?
The Red Cross last year added training and certification specifically for extreme shallow water rescue. The Aquatic Attraction Lifeguarding course includes techniques for handling and removing people from water that is generally 3 feet deep or less, which can be different than in deep-water pools, and first-aid training emphasizing care for head, neck and spinal injuries. About 2,100 people took the courses last year, according to the Red Cross.
WHAT DO STATES DO TO REGULATE WATER PARKS?
It varies, but Kansas statutes leave it to its Department of Labor to adopt rules and regulations relating to certification and inspection of rides, adding that an amusement ride at a permanent location ‘shall be self-inspected by a qualified inspector at least every 12 months.’
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO TO KEEP THEIR CHILDREN SAFE?
The Red Cross offers tips specifically for water parks. The Red Cross swim app is also available, which is designed for children and their parents. It can be found at http://rdcrss.org/23X5Zqq .