An audit by state regulators earlier this month identified violations of the Kansas Amusement Ride Act on 11 rides at the Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City, Kan.
Regulators from the Kansas Department of Labor visited Schlitterbahn Vacation Village on May 16 and 17. That visit resulted in an audit report that identified a total of 160 findings on the 11 rides at the water park, most of them requiring immediate attention from its Texas-based operator.
Auditors found key documents — daily and annual inspection reports, ride manufacturer maintenance and operation manuals, trainer qualification records, among others — were not made available during their visit.
Safety signage was not posted at the entrance of some of the rides, and parts of certain rides were still in operation despite manufacturer requirements that they be replaced.
A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Labor said the agency is in discussions with the Wyandotte County District Attorney's Office regarding the audit but "cannot comment any further at this time."
The spokeswoman, Barbara Hersh, said in an email to The Star that the Kansas attorney general also is aware of the audit.
A spokesman for Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree was not available for comment.
A Schlitterbahn spokeswoman pushed back on the audit, saying the company would challenge the accuracy of the Kansas Department of Labor's report in "several important aspects."
"The fact is the KDOL did not follow its own statutory requirements by publishing a list of misleading and false information concerning a park that was not yet open to the public and was not yet ready for operation," Schlitterbahn spokeswoman Winter Prosapio said in a written statement.
"Our commitment to safety remains our highest priority. The report found no issues with the mechanical function of our rides. Later this week Schlitterbahn will file a letter with the KDOL challenging the details of the report and we look forward to sharing those details publicly at that time."
The audit, which was released this week, comes days ahead of Schlitterbahn's planned May 25 opening for the 2018 season.
Schlitterbahn's 2018 season opens under the cloud of criminal indictments pending against the company and three individuals involved in the design or operation of the 17-story Verruckt water slide.
In 2016, a 10-year-old boy died while riding Verruckt, which had opened two years earlier as the world's tallest water slide. Caleb Schwab, the son of Kansas Rep. Scott Schwab, R-Olathe, died on Aug. 7, 2016, when his raft went airborne and he struck a metal brace that supported a netting system on the ride.
In March, a grand jury in Wyandotte County that was convened by the Kansas attorney general indicted Schlitterbahn in KCK and its former local director of operations Tyler Miles on involuntary manslaughter, aggravated battery, aggravated child endangerment and interfering with law enforcement charges.
In early April, Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeff Henry, Verruckt lead designer John Schooley and general contracting company Henry & Sons Construction were indicted on second-degree murder, aggravated battery and aggravated child endangerment charges.
The indictments accuse the individuals and companies involved in creating Verruckt of being unqualified, careless and aggressive in their pursuit of building the record-breaking water slide, all while lacking concern for the safety of riders and ignoring injuries to riders when they started happening.
Each defendant has pleaded not guilty to the charges against them and has said through attorneys that they plan to contest the charges.
Schlitterbahn has insisted that it maintains safe water parks. In a statement released after the criminal indictments, Schlitterbahn said that parks were inspected daily prior to opening and that it conducted routine maintenance of its rides.
Regulators notified Schlitterbahn on May 4 that the audit was on its way. By the time Kansas Department of Labor officials arrived on May 16, they noticed that a third-party inspector hired by Schlitterbahn was carrying out its own required annual inspection.
Beyond missing documents and safety signs, auditors noted that several parts on the Soaring Eagle Zipline ride were entering into their sixth season of operation, while the manufacturer's manual said parts should be replaced every five years or 150,000 cycles.
Two other rides were missing a device that would measure the height of riders.
Regulators briefed Schlitterbahn on the audit's findings before they left on May 17. The Kansas Department of Labor notice of violations said that the company did not dispute the audit's findings.
Regulations of amusement park rides became stricter after Caleb Schwab's death in 2016. His death had revealed that regulations at the time were weak and relied mostly on inspections done by an amusement park operator's hired inspectors.
Under the Kansas Amusement Ride Act passed in 2017, the state can impose up to $1,000 in fines for each violation, and each day that a violation continues can be considered a separate offense.
Schlitterbahn is expected to request a follow-up audit once it obtains all the documents that were missing from the initial inspection.
The audit looked into the following rides and found issues on each one.
- Bahnzai Pipeline
- Black Knight water slide
- Blitz Falls Aquaveyor
- Boogie Bahn
- Cyclone water slide
- King Kaw Aquaveyor
- Soaring Eagle Zipline
- Storm Blaster water slide
- Twister water slide
- Whirlwind water slide
- Wolfpack water slide