It started out as a fun, celebratory outing for the family of Kansas State Representative Scott Schwab, and it ended in a parent’s worst nightmare. The Schwab family was enjoying Elected Officials Day on August 7 at Kansas City’s Schlitterbahn water park when 10-year-old Caleb took a ride on the park’s biggest attraction: the 168-foot tall Verrückt, the world’s tallest waterslide, which opened two years before.
That Verrückt ride ended in an unthinkable tragedy: Little Caleb was riding at the front of a raft with two adult women when it somehow malfunctioned, ejecting the boy into a safety netting, where he hit a metal support bar at 65 mph. The boy was decapitated and his body fell to the bottom of the slide, to the horror of onlookers. Caleb’s older brother Nate, who had wanted to ride with his brother but was not permitted to because the two boys would not have met the minimum weight requirement even with a third adult, watched his brother die.
This week, the Schwab family reached a wrongful death settlement with Schlitterbahn, for an undisclosed sum. The conclusion of the settlement means that the Schwab family can pursue additional claims against “potentially culpable and liable parties,” according to the terms of the settlement petition obtained by the Kansas City Star.
“The Schwab family remains determined to hold all those responsible for this tragedy accountable, while doing all they can to ensure this never happens again to another family,” the Schwab family’s attorney Michael Rader said in a written statement.
Following the horrific tragedy, experts and witnesses who had previously ridden the Verrückt questioned the safety of the waterslide, which did not place riders in seats affixed to a structure like a roller coaster does — the rafts slid along on a film of water, unhinged. One parkgoer told CBS News after the incident that about two weeks prior, his safety safety had come undone while on the ride, and he had to grasp handles on the raft in order to keep from falling off. There are no federal standards for waterpark inspections, which are handled on a state-by-state basic. Schlitterbahn’s last inspection was in 2012, prior to the opening of the waterslide.
Schlitterbahn closed the Verrückt — which means “insane” in German — for good in January. But it was too late for the grieving Schwab family, who lost their bright young Caleb far, far too soon.