Young boy killed on world’s tallest water slide in Kansas

The Verrückt, dubbed the world's tallest water slide, located at the Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City, Kansas. SCHLITTERBAHN WATER PARK
The Verrückt, dubbed the world's tallest water slide, located at the Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City, Kansas. SCHLITTERBAHN WATER PARK

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS (CBS/AP) — Kansas City, Kansas police say a young boy died on a popular water slide at a local water park Sunday, CBS affiliate KCTV reported.

Police spokesman Officer Cameron Morgan said the boy died Sunday at the Schlitterbahn Water Park. Morgan said he does not yet know the circumstances of the death.

The child has been identified by his family as Caleb Thomas Schwab, the son of a Kansas lawmaker.

Olathe Representative Scott Schwab and his wife Michele released a statement Sunday after the death of their son.

“Since the day he was born, he brought abundant joy to our family and all those he came in contact with,” said the statement, which asked for privacy as the family grieves.

House Speaker Ray Merrick told the Kansas City Star Schwab’s family was “the center of his world.”

Authorities initially said the victim was 12 years old, but Clint Sprague, a pastor who is acting as a spokesman for the family, said Caleb was 10.

Police said the young boy died while riding the Verrückt ride, which uses the German word for “insane” in its title, and which Guinness Book of World Records calls the world’s tallest water slide. According to the park’s website, a three person raft slides down a “jaw dropping” 168 foot 7 inch structure.

The Verrückt, dubbed the world's tallest water slide, located at the Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City, Kansas. SCHLITTERBAHN WATER PARK
The Verrückt, dubbed the world’s tallest water slide, located at the Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City, Kansas. SCHLITTERBAHN WATER PARK

 

After the initial massive drop, riders are then “blasted back up a second massive hill and then sent down yet another gut wrenching 50 foot drop for the ultimate in water slide thrills,” the description on the website explains.

The website says the two to three riders per raft must have a combined weight between 400 and 550 pounds. Riders must also be at least 54 inches tall.

In a media briefing Sunday afternoon, a spokeswoman for Schlitterbahn said the park’s rides are inspected every day and are checked by independent inspection agencies at the beginning of the season, KCTV reported.

The park was cleared following the accident and closed while investigators from multiple agencies arrived on scene.

Water park officials say Schlitterbahn will be closed Monday. Subsequently, the Verrückt is closed pending a full investigation.

The slide’s 2014 opening was delayed a few times, though the operators did not provide reasons for the delays. Two media sneak preview days in 2014 were canceled because of problems with a conveyor system that hauls 100-pound rafts to the top of the slide.

Schlitterbahn spokeswoman Winter Prosapio said in 2014 that park officials would not hesitate to delay operation again for however long it takes to make sure the slide is safe.

In a news article linked to the news release announcing a 2014 delay, Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeff Henry told USA Today that he and senior designer John Schooley had based their calculations when designing the slide on roller coasters, but that didn’t translate well to a water slide like Verrückt.

In early tests, rafts carrying sandbags flew off the slide, prompting engineers to tear down half of the ride and reconfigure some angles at a cost of $1 million, Henry said.

A promotional video for a show 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.

Prosapio said at the news conference that the park’s rides are inspected daily and inspected by an “outside party” before the start of each season.

Prosapio said the boy’s family had been at the park with him on Sunday.

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