Summer months and the opening of Schlitterbahn water park are nearing, drawing closer with each warm and sunny day.
This year, what has become an annual rite of summer no doubt will also serve as a somber reminder of the horrific day that 10-year-old Caleb Schwab died on the Verrückt water slide.
But this week brought a modicum of solace.
Details are now known about the settlements that will be paid to those who lost their beloved son and brother. Caleb’s family will receive nearly $20 million from the companies involved with his death at the Kansas City, Kan., water park.
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Less than a year has passed since that Sunday in August. In the world of litigation, this legal closure has come relatively quickly.
The settlement is believed to be the largest ever paid in the wrongful death of a child in Missouri or Kansas. That’s especially notable because Kansas limits awards, generally ensuring that damages are kept low.
Two adult sisters also suffered serious injuries when Caleb died. They, too, have reached settlements. The women asked that the Verrückt be torn down as a condition of their agreements — a commendable request on their part.
The Kansas Legislature, where Caleb’s father serves as a representative, strengthened lax laws to increase regulation of amusement parks.
Verrückt drew international attention when it opened in 2014. In retrospect, much of hype surrounding the skyscraper-esque water slide sounds cruelly naive, promoting a ride that towered about the Schlitterbahn water park at a death-defying height of 17 stories.
No dollar amount can ease the Schwab family’s enduring grief or the recurring reminders that a member of their family is missing.
But the record financial settlement is needed confirmation that those responsible for Caleb’s death have been held accountable. SVV 1 and KC Water Park, two companies associated with the Texas-based company Schlitterbahn, will pay $14 million. Also named in the settlement are: Henry & Sons Construction, the general contractor on the slide; Zebec of North America, manufacturer of the raft the three victims rode in; and National Aquatics Safety Co. and its founder John Hunsucker, a consultant on the project.
Thankfully, Verrückt will soon cease to exist after a court allows it to be taken down.
The substantial settlement sends a clear and important message: Safety must always outweigh profits and publicity — especially on amusement rides marketed to attract adventuresome kids.
Rest in peace, Caleb. You will not be forgotten by this community.