A thorough investigation must follow the tragic death Sunday of 10-year-old Caleb Thomas Schwab at the Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City, Kan.
The boy, the second oldest of Kansas state Rep. Scott Schwab’s four sons, died on Verrückt, which opened in July 2014. At 17 stories tall, it is billed as the tallest water slide in the world.
Little was known about how the accident occurred Sunday afternoon when admittance to the water park was free for area elected officials and their families. Schlitterbahn said on its Facebook page that it was saddened by Caleb’s death.
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The ride will remain closed “pending a full investigation,” Schlitterbahn said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time.” Officials at the water park have said nothing about what may have happened to cause Caleb’s death.
The water slide had been a major tourist attraction. It’s good that the state mandates a qualified inspector’s approval before any amusement ride reopens after a major accident.
Certainly no more tragedies need to occur at Schlitterbahn. Riders on Verrückt must be at least 54 inches tall. Each three-person raft holds people with a combined weight of 400 to 550 pounds. Passengers are secured with straps across the waist and one shoulder.
The ride includes 264 steps to the top and call boxes for people to report emergencies. The chute drops 168 feet 7 inches, sending the raft at speeds up to 70 mph. The ride then climbs a second hill, plunges into a 50-foot drop and then continues to a stop. Officials weren’t commenting on where things may have gone wrong, resulting in Caleb’s death.
A police investigation is underway. The Wyandotte County medical examiner was doing an autopsy, but Monday evening Kansas City, Kan., police said Caleb Schwab died from a fatal neck injury.
Amusement ride injuries and fatalities have occurred in other cities in the U.S. After investigations to determine the cause, the attractions have reopened with improvements geared toward prevention.
For the sake of public safety, people need to know the cause of what happened to Caleb at Verrückt. They also need to be assured that safeguards will be put in place after more details are known to ensure that no more injuries or deaths will occur again.
A Go Fund Me fundraising page has been set up to cover the funeral and other expenses for Caleb. By Monday afternoon, it had raised more than $23,000.
Meanwhile, Rep. Schwab, his wife, Michele, and their family need time with friends and loved ones to grieve over the loss of Caleb.