A Schlitterbahn spokeswoman said Wednesday that an ongoing investigation by the Kansas attorney general into a child’s death at its Kansas City, Kan., water park last year “feels like a long time” but will show it was an accident.
On Monday, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said that his office continues to look into whether the Aug. 7 death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab on the park’s 17-story Verrückt water slide warrants criminal charges, a declaration that forestalls Schlitterbahn from tearing down the structure.
“We feel very confident that it will be very clear this was an accident,” Winter Prosapio of Schlitterbahn said in an interview with The Star. “The (general manager’s) children were on it the week before (Caleb’s death). I’ve been on it. All our folks have been on the ride multiple times. We think that it will be very clear that what happened was a horrible, horrible accident.”
Prosapio, spokeswoman for the Texas-based developer of water parks, traveled to Kansas City to meet with media ahead of the season opening Friday of Schlitterbahn Vacation Village.
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“We know this year is going to be a different year,” she said.
Prosapio declined to discuss specifics about the incident that killed Caleb, the son Kansas Rep. Scott Schwab, citing the ongoing investigation.
Schmidt took over the investigation from the Wyandotte County district attorney’s office in December. Schmidt said Monday it became necessary for law enforcement to conduct further investigation in particular matters related to the incident.
For as long as that investigation continues, a court order preventing any destruction or alteration of the Verrückt structure remains in effect.
“We would like to dismantle it, absolutely,” Prosapio said. “There are many of us who would like a turn at taking it down, frankly. We understand the (attorney general’s) need to continue the investigation. It’s going to stay as long as it needs to stay.”
Prosapio said it would take a month to tear down the ride during the park’s offseason when no guests are around. Taking Verrückt down when the park is open for guests would likely take longer, she said.
The company has discussed building something in place of the Verrückt site when it finally comes down.
“We have talked about having something completely different,” Prosapio said. “But no decisions have been made.”
Prosapio said last year’s incident has had an impact on Schlitterbahn.
“We refrained from advertising for quite some time — that definitely had an impact,” Prosapio said. “We are not really worried about ticket sales this year. We are not really worried about our attendance this year. We feel it’s important to open.”
Schlitterbahn is a family-owned business headquartered in New Braunfels, Texas. It operates five waters parks; all except the Kansas City, Kan., location are in Texas.
The company had plans to open a water park in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., but a judge earlier this year invalidated that city’s lease agreement with Schlitterbahn when it determined that Fort Lauderdale did not follow its charter when awarding the lease without competitive bids, according to an article in the (Broward County, Fla.) Sun-Sentinel.