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Kansas Labor Dept. to audit water park where boy was decapitated

The 10-year-old boy was killed on the park's water slide in 2016.

by Associated Press /
Image: Caleb Schwab
Caleb Schwab died on the Verruckt waterslide at Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City, Kansas, in August 2016.Schwab family via KSHB-TV

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TOPEKA, Kan. — A Kansas agency plans to conduct a full audit of a water park’s inspection records before it reopens this spring, a state official said Wednesday, after criminal charges were filed over the decapitation of a 10-year-old boy on the world’s tallest waterslide there in 2016.

The state Department of Labor said it will review reports from daily inspections of rides by park staff at the Schlitterbahn park in Kansas City, Kansas, before it is scheduled to reopen May 25 for its annual season. A state law enacted last year after Caleb Schwab’s death requires amusement parks to keep daily reports on their rides and to give them annual inspections.

A grand jury has issued indictments with multiple criminal charges against the park; the construction company that built the giant waterslide; former park operations director Tyler Austin Miles; the ride’s co-designer, John Timothy Schooley, and a co-owner of Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts, Jeffrey Wayne Henry.

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Henry, Schooley and the construction company face one felony count of second-degree murder and Miles and the park, one count of involuntary manslaughter, over Caleb’s death. The raft the boy was riding on the 17-story Verruckt ride went airborne and hit an overhead loop.

State law allows parks to have their own staff do daily inspections and to have private inspectors do the annual inspections, rather than state inspectors. The inspectors doing the annual reviews must be either licensed engineers with two years’ experience with amusement rides, have five years’ experience in inspecting rides or have been certified by one of three industry groups.

Hersh said the audit will show whether the park has been conducting the required inspections and maintaining proper records on them as it prepares to reopen for the sesason.

“They will have a notebook full of inspections,” she said.

Schlitterbahn spokeswoman Winter Prosapio said in a statement Tuesday that the latest indictment against Henry, Schooley and the construction company “is filled with information that we fully dispute.”

The company also posted a statement on its website that all park attractions are “thoroughly inspected daily” by supervisors and managers.

Also, it said, before the park opens for the season, each ride has a thorough internal review and an inspection from “an independent third party.” The statement said the park’s insurance provider also conducts annual inspections.

Image: Verrückt water slide
Verruckt, which takes its name from the German word for insane, is 17 stories tall and sends riders on a 65-mph descent that includes a water-powered blast up and over a second, 50-foot hill.Schlitterbahn Waterpark

Henry, Schooley and the construction company are charged with second-degree murder in connection with Caleb’s death, and Miles and the park are charged with involuntary manslaughter over it. All are charged with multiple counts of aggravated battery and aggravated endangering a child in connection with injuries to other riders on the 17-story waterslide.

Miles was arrested last week and released from a Kansas jail on bond. jail in Wyandotte County, Kansas, on $50,000 bond. Henry was arrested Monday in Cameron County, Texas, and waived extradition to Kansas during a court hearing Wednesday.

As for Schooley, family attorney Kit Yam, of Houston, said he was traveling in Asia. Yam said Schooley is in the process of hiring a Kansas City-area attorney.

“He is out of the country at this point on a business trip,” Yam said.

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