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Death at Schlitterbahn in KC, Verrückt to be torn down (page 2)

GuyWithAStick

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http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article116542643.html

The amusement park ride that killed a 10-year-old boy will never operate again.

Billed as the world’s tallest water slide, Schlitterbahn Kansas City Water Park’s Verrückt will be demolished after the investigation into the death of Caleb Thomas Schwab is complete, according to a statement released Tuesday from Schlitterbahn.

Caleb was killed Aug. 7 while riding the water slide. The 10-year-old was the second oldest of Michele and Scott Schwab’s four sons. The family had headed to the park after church to enjoy a free visit on a day celebrating elected officials in Kansas. Caleb’s father is a Republican Kansas House representative from Olathe.

Caleb was found dead at the bottom of the slide with what police termed a “fatal neck injury.” One witness told The Star after the incident that she could tell the boy’s neck was broken.

Kansas City, Kan., police are investigating the Schlitterbahn case, as they would in any death, to determine if a crime occurred. No information will be released until the investigation is complete.

The statement from the water park announcing the ride’s destruction read:

“All of us at Schlitterbahn have been heartbroken over the tragedy that occurred on Verrückt. In our 50 years of providing an environment for families and friends to gather, we’ve never experienced this kind of devastating event. The safety of our staff and our guests is our top priority. We are parents and grandparents ourselves and many of us have ridden Verrückt with our own children and grandchildren over the years it operated.

“Once the investigation is concluded and we are given permission by the court, Verrückt will be decommissioned — closed permanently and the slide removed from the tower. In our opinion, it is the only proper course of action following this tragedy.

“We will, at some point in the future, announce what will be built in its place.”

On the 168-foot, 17-story-drop Verrückt, riders plunge down one slope, glide up and over another hump and then shoot down a final slope. It opened in 2014 amid a well-oiled publicity campaign that attracted media from around the globe to Kansas City, Kan. Mayor Mark Holland was one of the first to try the slide.

On Tuesday, Holland said he was encouraged by Schlitterbahn’s decision to close the slide and by its communication with Caleb’s family. Attempts by The Star to reach Caleb’s father, Scott, for comment were unsuccessful.

“I also appreciate that Schlitterbahn officials informed the Schwab family in advance of publicizing their intentions,” Holland said. “We continue to keep the Schwabs, and all others affected by this tragedy, in our thoughts and prayers, especially as the holiday season approaches.”

Former Kansas City, Kan., Mayor Carol Marinovich said she was in agreement with the closure.

“I’m glad they’re doing that if for no other reason than the family,” Marinovich said.

USA Today, ESPN, “The Today Show” and “NBC Nightly News” joined The Star and virtually all other local news outlets in touting the slide when it opened.

For most of two years, the slide seemed to work without many issues. However, visitors told The Star after Caleb’s death that they experienced problems on Verrückt, mainly poorly secured restraints and rafts going before or near the second hump.

Dawn Gentry, of Wichita, rode the water slide with her daughter in July, more than a week before Caleb’s death. As they approached the slide’s second drop, Gentry said, their raft flew into the air, concerning the workers at the end of the ride. Gentry was one of several people who told The Star this summer about mishaps on the Verrückt.

When told Tuesday evening that the slide would eventually be torn down, Gentry said that’s what she was hoping would happen.

“I think that’s good for that family and everybody,” Gentry told The Star. “I would have been surprised if they wouldn’t have done that. ... I just thought that was the necessary step. I’m glad it’s happening.”

Other riders complained about harnesses coming off during the ride.

On July 26, Paul Oberhauser’s shoulder strap came loose at the bottom of the first slope, said his wife, Erin, of Omaha, Neb. When he got off the ride, he told workers, who responded, “Oh, that’s not good.”

Since Caleb’s death, Erin Oberhauser said her husband has spoken to a detective investigating the incident. And she has found herself saying a prayer for the young boy and his family.

“I think it will be nice to tear it down,” Erin Oberhauser said Tuesday evening. “Nobody will have to look at it. It’s a sad reminder, although it is also a reminder to celebrate his life as well.”

Caleb’s death hit many hard, especially his friends and teachers at Heritage Christian Academy, where he would have been a fifth-grader this year.

At Heritage, where Caleb was one of roughly 30 children in his grade, the boy was known to ask deep questions, enjoy modern Christian music and be pretty good at telling a joke.

In the weeks after his death, the school brought in comfort dogs to help the children as they tried to deal with the death of their friend.

Caleb had been in the ride’s three-person raft with two adult women who were unrelated to him. The women were injured but later released after being treated at area hospitals.

Caleb and the two women weighed a combined 545 pounds. Police said 73-pound Caleb sat in the front seat of the raft, while a woman weighing 197 pounds and another woman weighing 275 pounds occupied the next two seats, respectively.

Physics and engineering experts have questioned the wisdom of loading lighter passengers toward the front of the raft that slides down the Verrückt water slide while placing heavier riders toward the back.
Quite sad to see it go, but completely understandable after the accident.
 

Lofty

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I'm hardly surprised that this it's going to be removed - it was nearly entirely down to human error in the weight distribution of the boat, so I'm really not surprised.
 

gavin

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Those two other riders were rather large. The woman in the middle was 90kg, but the one at the back was 125kg, which is enormous. The weight distribution had to have had something to do with it, surely?

Interesting how they mention removing the slide, but not the tower. It looks like they'll be reusing that.
 

Lofty

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From what I've read, the little boy should have been in the centre, distributing the heavier weight to the front and back, but instead they let him sit at the front of it :(
 

jodon1981

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Here's an update to this horrifying incident. Schlitterbahn and the ex-manager of the park are being indicted with involuntary manslaughter. The indictment is a really tough read that is really damning for all involved and highlights singnificant negligence on the part of Schlitterbahn, Jeff Henry, John Schooley, and Tyler Austin Miles. http://www.kansascity.com/latest-news/article206611679.ece/BINARY/Read the full Schlitterbahn corporation indictment#storylink=readmore_inline

Here's the link to the KC Star article about the charges: http://www.kansascity.com/news/article206605804.html

All in all, it was really difficut to read how brazen this group of people were with the safety of their guests. Particularly when most of us enthisiasts are very trusting of the people who design, build, and operate these thrill machines.




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Ben

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That is ****ing... dark

It amazes me as a Brit it can even get like that - we have a Smiler and the world almost ends, but this is so much worse in every way!
 

Ethan

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Just read the entire document. Absolutely horrific, and really quite scary. To think they knew that somebody was going to be killed by this thing they had designed, yet kept it open, is terrifying.
 

Benenen

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The most shocking bit for me was that someone got air on the bump and smacked his eye on the metal netting hoops yet there was no investigation and the ride continued to operate until a child was decapitated in a similar way.
 

tomahawk

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I lived 2 doors down from that guy my freshman year of college and have kept in touch with him a bit over the years. Absolutely insane as he just took an amazing job in Tennessee. I struggle to see the charges sticking against him, but the entire circumstances for this thing opening is just insane. I remember a travel channel video while they were building it and showing the rafts just launching off the hill. The fact that it opened is mindblowing.

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Pokemaniac

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What I find kind of scary is that the ride seems not to have been reviewed by any external controlling agency before opening. Is it really possible to build a ride like this, declare compliance with standards, and open it just like that? I thought you needed all sorts of reviews before getting permission to open anything more intense than a park bench these days, but these people had a water slide in flying violation of safety standards running for two years! There really ought to be more between the design and the operation of a record-breaking water slide than a signature on a paper.

I'm not sure if this is the worst example of negligence I've ever heard of, but it's certainly close to the top. And not only from those who ran the place, by the way, but also from whoever failed to check if they knew what they were doing before a ride like that could be opened.
 

Mysterious Sue

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Wow, you just can't stop reading it, it's terrifying. How could it get to that state with no one noticing it wasn't meeting standards or with no one whistleblowing the problems?
 

davidm

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Its a bit hard to separate the "truth" from the salacious stories at this stage ; I do feel some of the quotes being reported are misleading as they are pulled from the TV show that they were playing up to.
Not to say that the people who were in charge of this ride don't deserve to be held accountable, frankly its amazing to me that the whole chain hasn't gone under because of this.
 

Smithy

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Yeah the question for me is how was the ride allowed to open without any thorough examination of it? At a state level, is there not mechanisms in place that need to be cleared before opening like we have in Europe.
 

Tomatron

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There's so many failiures at so many levels, it's almost beyond belief. Sadly it takes stuff like this to happen to make sure it doesn't happen again.

I rode it in 2015, and even though the safety procedures were very well enforced by the staff, the fact the ride was allowed to be built in the manner it realiy does make you wonder about the company's business practices as a whole.
 

Dar

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I originally thought a manslaughter charge was a joke, then I actually read the indictment! It's sickening really, from the fact it was only built for a TV show through to hiding accident reports and lying to the police.
 

tomahawk

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Schlitterbahn did come back and say they used quotes from the TV show as facts that were created for dramatic purposes rather than actual facts. At this point of any investigation, there is a lot of he said, she said, especially before ALL facts have been presented.

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Dar

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I get that, but why did they then lie to the police and try to hide evidence of it? Surely they'd want to give the police as much evidence as possible to clear their name as soon as possible?
 

tomahawk

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I want to clarify that even though I know the guy. I'm not defending what happened. Anyone who looked at it saw the potential for an accident to happen. Why metal for reinforcements?

The state is saying they destroyed evidence. The company says they aren't. Yeah, there were reported incidents, probably several of them saying we almost flew off, like the numerous complaints that people say they almost flew out of a coaster when they get some airtime. Obviously that's not all of them because there are documented injuries. Are they counting the "I almost flew off but only got airtime" as evidence for destroying evidence?

To go with that. I worked as an intern at WoF in 2011 in the maintenance department. My job was to track ANY incident that occurred that was called in. Mechanical, human error, electrical, etc. One day a small kiddie ride bumped in the station. The ride travels less than 2mph and missed a sensor. Or that's what the ride op said. So instead of calling it on radios, we had a procedure to call on phone if there was a possibility of injury. They went over, everything was fine, but the cars didn't touch, so it was a simple breakdown and that was that. I'm assuming several incidents were like that. After investigation, nothing was found wrong, resume operations.

Another piece to note is this is Kansas only real theme park, so while they should have basic safety that's national, the state may not have everything either. Massive oversight on all sides.

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