When Schlitterbahn opens again for the season, the Verrückt water slide might still be standing as a grim reminder of last summer’s tragedy.
The world’s tallest water slide remains closed since 10-year-old Caleb Schwab died on it on Aug. 7. Since then, the Kansas Legislature has moved to tighten regulations on amusement park rides, and Schwab’s family has reached a civil settlement with the park’s owners.
But Schlitterbahn has not been able to take the water slide down, even though company officials say they want to.
A court order prevents the owners of the amusement park from removing the ride while the Kansas Attorney General’s Office is still reviewing the death investigation for possible criminal charges, according to Schlitterbahn officials. The Attorney General’s Office has not given a timeline for finishing that review, and the water park is scheduled to open again May 26.
Winter Prosapio, a spokeswoman for Schlitterbahn, said the company knows the slide needed to be preserved for the investigation but doesn’t understand what is taking so long.
“We would like Verrückt down immediately,” Prosapio said. “It’s not in our interest to have it up. It’s terrible for the community, it’s terrible for the family.”
Caleb, the son of state Rep. Scott Schwab, an Olathe Republican, died from a fatal neck injury while riding Verrückt, the 17-story water slide at the Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City, Kan.
When local police launched their investigation, a judge issued an injunction preventing anyone from altering the water slide, which was being preserved as evidence.
In January, Kansas City, Kan., police said they had completed their investigation and submitted it to the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office. The district attorney handed the case to the Kansas Attorney General, where it remains.
Investigations by The Star after Caleb’s death found that there was little government oversight for amusement rides in Kansas. The Star also found that there was little critical consideration by outside officials. An expert questioned the attraction’s design and park visitors came forward with troubling accounts about its safety.
The Schwab family reached a wrongful death settlement in January with the amusement park’s owner and the manufacturer of the raft used on the water slide. The amount of the settlement has not been disclosed. An attorney representing the family has said additional claims are being pursued against other parties.
Now, Schlitterbahn officials say they believe all physical investigations of the ride have “long been over,” but the court order still prevents them from touching the slide.
Verrückt remains fenced off from public access at one end of the park. Prosapio, the Schlitterbahn spokeswoman, said the company still hopes to have the slide removed before the park opens again next month.
“But it’s very difficult to get in the large equipment necessary to dismantle the slide with guests in our park,” Prosapio said.
The work will probably take at least four weeks, she said, depending on weather and when the company receives permission to go ahead. The company will have to schedule a crane and either work around the park’s operating hours or wait until the park closes again for the season.
“We believe it’s very upsetting for everyone to have this slide up and are hopeful that we will get word that we can take it down very soon,” Prosapio said.