Breaking News Emails
The Kansas water park where 10-year-old Caleb Schwab died on the world's tallest waterslide will reopen Wednesday, but the waterslide itself will remain closed for the rest of the 2016 season, the park said Tuesday.
Caleb Schwab died Sunday afternoon on the Verrückt ride at Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City. He was the son of state Rep. Scott Schwab of Olathe, and the family was at the park for Elected Officials Day.
Winter Prosapio, a spokeswoman for Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts, said "a limited portion" of the park will reopen for guests at noon (1 p.m. ET) Wednesday. She said the company would have no further comment and wouldn't grant any interviews.
An autopsy showed that Caleb, who was in a carriage with two women, died of an unspecified neck injury at the end of the ride in the water pool, Kansas City police said. Police said they were investigating the case as an accident.
The two other riders were publicly identified only as women from Hays, Kan., who weren't related to the Schwabs. They were treated for face injuries.
The Hays Daily News reported Tuesday that both women are back home in Hays awaiting medical appointments.
"We feel really bad for his family," the husband of one of the women said of the Schwabs, according to the Daily News, which said the man asked that his family remain anonymous.
The Verrückt — a German word for "insane" or "crazy" — drops riders almost 169 feet at 65 mph. Its marketing materials include the slogan "R U Insane?" and it's listed by Guinness World Records as the world's tallest waterslide.
The state Labor Department, which has oversight of amusement park rides in Kansas, said Tuesday that it has requested documentation from Schlitterbahn to ensure that all safety requirements were followed.
It said that under state law, "all occurrences of serious injury resulting from the operation of an amusement ride require that the ride be immediately discontinued by the park pending further inspection."
Prosapio said the Verrückt ride wouldn't reopen this season, which ends Sept. 5.
NBC News reported Monday that Kansas is among several states that don't require permanent amusement park rides to be inspected by a state inspector. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission hasn't had the power to oversee amusement parks for 35 years, after Congress stripped its authority in 1981 as part of a package of deregulatory budget cuts.
The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, the largest trade association for permanent amusement park rides, said in a statement Tuesday that it opposes any effort to enact federal oversight.
"Developing a federal program would require the government to invest millions of taxpayer dollars to staff a department of qualified inspectors and investigators," the organization said. "We have no reason to believe a federal program would improve on the already outstanding safety record of the industry."
Meanwhile, residents of Olathe were mourning the loss of their state representative's son.
"Every teacher said, 'What a joy to have him. I hope I have him again,'" said Rick Lukianuk, chief administrator of Heritage Christian Academy, where Caleb would have been entering fifth grade.
"But we have a great big thank-you to God for allowing him to be here," Lukianuk told NBC station KSHB of Kansas City, Mo. "The school is a better place, we're a better place, because Caleb was here."
Clint Sprague, lead pastor of LifeMission Church, where the Schwabs are members, said Caleb's death was "absolutely devastating."
"He's going to be missed for his energy, for his life, for his smile, for the way he lit up a room," Sprague said.