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Women injured in Verrückt incident hire attorney, consider litigation

How Schlitterbahn’s Verruckt was built in Wyandotte County

What has become clearer since the tragic death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab is that from nearly the moment the Verruckt was proposed in Wyandotte County, its path to completion was all but assured with almost no outside officials casting a critica
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What has become clearer since the tragic death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab is that from nearly the moment the Verruckt was proposed in Wyandotte County, its path to completion was all but assured with almost no outside officials casting a critica

Two women injured while riding the Verrückt water slide with Caleb Schwab have started their own investigation into the incident and are considering litigation against Schlitterbahn.

Hannah Barnes and Matraca Baetz, both of whom suffered serious facial injuries while riding the world’s tallest water slide at Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City, Kan., have retained attorney Lynn Johnson, partner with Kansas City law firm Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman.

The two women haven’t spoken publicly about their experience riding the Verrückt as it claimed 10-year-old Caleb’s life. But they issued a statement through Johnson on Tuesday.

“We are pursuing a thorough investigation of this tragic event to insure that any and all measures are taken to prevent this from ever happening again,” the two women said in the statement.

“Being mothers ourselves, we can only hope that Caleb’s family can find some comfort in knowing we are doing everything we know how to do to stop something so tragic from occurring again to any other family.”

Schlitterbahn’s tallest water slide is guided by energy, acceleration and the laws of physics.

Barnes and Baetz were placed behind Schwab, who weighed 73 pounds, on a three-person raft that requires riders to collectively weigh 400 to 550 pounds.

Experts who discussed the ride with The Star on Tuesday questioned the wisdom of putting the majority of the weight toward the back of the raft. Physics and engineering experts said such a dynamic on a high-velocity ride like Verrückt could cause the boat to go airborne or tip upward. Netting supported by metal poles covered the ride. Investigators pulled down part of that netting shortly after the incident.

Johnson is working with the legal team at Leawood firm Bartimus Frickleton Robertson retained by Scott Schwab, Caleb’s father, that is working on an independent investigation into what went wrong on the Verrückt.

When asked if his clients would pursue litigation, Johnson said, “I think the answer is yes, but first they want the investigation to move forward so they have answers to their questions.”

Johnson said Schlitterbahn has been cooperative with providing attorneys access to the water slide, as well being open to making it accessible to Johnson’s experts at a future date.

“They, like the rest of us, have read and heard reports of similar incidents having occurred with other riders of this water slide, and they hope anyone who has had an incident or their boat has become airborne, we hope they will come forward to you, to the (Kansas City, Kan., Police Department), or somehow come forward so their information can be shared in terms of the investigation,” Johnson said.

Steve Vockrodt: 816-234-4277, @st_vockrodt

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