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Brownback open to tougher inspection rules following Schlitterbahn death

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said that in the wake of a water slide death this month in Kansas City, Kan., he may explore more state regulation of amusement park rides.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said that in the wake of a water slide death this month in Kansas City, Kan., he may explore more state regulation of amusement park rides. AP

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said Friday that the state’s restricted role in overseeing amusement park safety could change in the wake of a 10-year-old boy’s death Sunday while riding the Verruckt water slide at the Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City, Kan.

“It ought to be reviewed, for sure,” Brownback said. “I would assume and hope that the Legislature would spend significant time looking at the issue. And we will, as an administration, after you get past the sheer tragedy of it.”

The federal government plays no role in regulating the safety of rides and attractions that remain at fixed locations, such as the Wyandotte County water park where Caleb Scwhab was killed while riding the Verruckt on Sunday.

State law assigns some oversight of such rides to the Kansas Department of Labor. But that agency largely requires ride operators to hire inspectors and keep their reports on file. The Verruckt, for instance, opened in 2014 but had never been inspected directly by state officials.

The state’s current law was was enacted before Brownback took office. Brownback said that he’s open to tightening the regulations in the wake of Caleb’s death and expects the Legislature to take up the issue next year.

Brownback noted that Schlitterbahn had performed inspections and the state audited those inspections.

“That all needs to be looked at in light of this tragedy and see if people want to change it, want to go a different direction with it,” the governor said.

“It also raises the question of who’s most effective at it because we’ve had these sort of systems where you have both a private and a public role … and what you really want taking place is more inspections more often by competent people,” Brownback continued. “That’s what you’re after. And sometimes that’s a public sector function and sometimes that’s a private sector function that’s audited by the public sector.”

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