Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Monday that while he understands the desire to tear down Verrückt, the 17-story water slide where Caleb Schwab was killed, that can’t happen until his staff completes its investigation into whether criminal charges are warranted.
Schmidt’s office said in a statement that while his staff is moving as quickly as possible, there’s no way to predict when the investigation will conclude.
“We are sensitive to the desire to allow demolition of the Verrückt water slide,” Schmidt’s office said in a statement. “However, our top priority must be to ensure the thoroughness and integrity of the criminal investigation.
“That necessarily includes the preservation of all evidence, including the Verrückt itself, until the investigation can be completed and we can determine whether or not the available evidence supports the filing of criminal charges.”
Schmidt’s office added it was aware of the public’s interest into the investigation of why 10-year-old Caleb died in an Aug. 7 incident last year, given that Schlitterbahn is preparing the open the water park in Kansas City, Kan., for its 2017 season. Opening day is Friday, according to Schlitterbahn’s website.
Caleb, the son of Kansas Rep. Scott Schwab of Olathe, died when riding the record-breaking slide last year. Two women riding with him suffered severe injuries.
Nothing from the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department’s investigation of the incident has been made public, but it’s believed that Caleb came into contact with a netting system that was supported by metal poles. Police said Caleb was killed by a fatal neck injury.
On Aug. 10, a Wyandotte County judge ordered that the slide remain standing until an investigation was completed. The company last year announced the week of Thanksgiving that it had decided to tear down the slide once the judge’s order was lifted. More recently, the company expressed its wish to tear it down immediately, but ongoing investigations prevented that.
“It’s not in our interest to have it up. It’s terrible for the community, it’s terrible for the family,” Schlitterbahn spokeswoman Winter Prosapio said in April.
Schlitterbahn had hoped to take the slide down before the water park opened for the summer season, saying that it would be difficult to dismantle it with large equipment in the presence of guests.
The Wyandotte County district attorney’s office on Dec. 15 asked Schmidt’s office to assume responsibility of reviewing an investigation into Caleb’s death and determining whether criminal charges were warranted.
A private investigation into Caleb’s death was carried out by investigators and experts hired by attorneys representing the Schwab family. In January and again in April, companies involved in the making of Verrückt reached settlements with the Schwab family.
Last month, The Star reported that the aggregate value of those settlements was $19.7 million, with Schlitterbahn paying $14 million. An official with the company was not immediately available to comment.
The two women who were injured on the ride with Caleb had told Schlitterbahn that they would not entertain settlement negotiations until the company agreed to take the slide down. The women eventually settled their claims against Schlitterbahn, although the terms were kept confidential.
The towering presence of Verrückt will likely serve as a reminder of Caleb’s death when the park opens for business this week. Schlitterbahn reopened three days after Caleb died on Verrückt. Visitors that day told The Star that they felt the water park’s other rides would be safe.