Caleb Schwab

Disgraced theme park owner faces murder charge in tragic waterslide decapitation of 10-year-old boy

As details about his troubled past come to light, a co-owner of Schlitterbahn—the Kansas City water park where a child was beheaded on a slide in 2016—was charged Tuesday with reckless second-degree murder.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Jeffrey Steven Henry, proprietor of Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts in Kansas City, had previous run-ins with the law due to drug arrests, as well as extensive financial problems since the accidental decapitation death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab at his amusement park.

Henry was arrested in 1994 while in possession of marijuana, guns, and a large sum of cash, for which he received probation. He pleaded guilty to a second pot possession charge in 2007. The ownership group of Schlitterbahn park filed for bankruptcy last year after plans to expand the operation floundered in the wake of the accident.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, Kansas State Representative Scott Schwab brought his young family to Elected Officials Day at the park on August 7, 2016, where his son Caleb rode the world’s tallest waterslide—the168-foot tall Verrückt attraction. The unthinkable happened when Caleb was ejected from his raft into safety netting, hitting a metal pole while traveling at 65 miles per hour. He was instantly decapitated.

The Schwab family settled with the park in 2017 for nearly $20 million, and the ride was shuttered.

A grand jury finally issued charges in Caleb’s death last week. Henry, Verrückt’s designer John Timothy Schooley, and the slide’s construction company each received one felony count of second-degree murder. The park operations director at the time of the accident Tyler Austin Miles as well as the park itself are facing involuntary manslaughter.

The indictment includes allegations that the management group covered up evidence that would incriminate Miles, and attempted to hinder the police investigation of Caleb’s death and other accidents that occurred on the waterslide.

A statement issued by Schlitterbahn in response to the criminal charges reads, “The allegation that we operated, and failed to maintain, a ride that could foreseeably cause such a tragic accident is beyond the pale of speculation.”

“Many of us, and our children and grandchildren, have ridden the ride with complete confidence as to its safety.”

The park intends to open for the summer season on May 25, but before it can do so, the Kansas Department of Labor will review last year’s daily inspection reports required of all amusement parks since Caleb’s death.

Henry was detained in Texas and agreed to return to Kansas in court Wednesday. Miles is currently out of custody on bond, and Schooley’s attorney said he was traveling in Asia last week but plans to hire legal representation in Kansas City.

[Feature Photo: Caleb Schwab/Handout]