Government & Politics

Kansas House committee approves tougher regulations after death on Verrückt water slide

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

Lawmakers on a Kansas House panel gave their approval Wednesday to a bill that would toughen the state’s amusement ride law after the son of one of their Republican colleagues was killed on the world’s tallest water slide last year.

The bill next heads to the House floor, where it will need to be approved by the full chamber.

The legislation, if passed, would create stricter inspection requirements for amusement rides after the death of Caleb Schwab, the 10-year-old son of a leading Republican lawmaker, last August.

It would also tweak insurance requirements and state oversight in an effort to overhaul a law that lawmakers have called weak.

Caleb, the son of Olathe Republican Rep. Scott Schwab, died while riding Verrückt, a 17-story water slide at the Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City, Kan.

“I think it’s a comprehensive step,” said Rep. John Barker, an Abilene Republican who has helped lead the push for changes to the law. “It touches on a number of different issues.”

Barker said the bill includes a number of safeguards, including a reporting requirement for amusement parks and riders if they get hurt. It also includes a new fee, Barker said, that will help fund enforcement of the bill if it’s passed into law.

“It’s got a number of penalties attached to it, fines attached to it which go into a safety fund administered by the (Kansas) Department of Labor so they can have inspectors go out and check,” Barker said.

An earlier version of the bill required the insurance company that covers the ride to pay for the inspections.

That changed under the revised legislation passed out of the committee, which requires the owner of the ride to pay for the inspection.

Rides would have to be reviewed by “qualified inspectors” under the bill.

That group would include people who are professional engineers, have experience in amusement ride inspections and are certified by third-party groups like the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials.

The three factions that make up the Kansas Legislature — Democrats, moderate Republicans and conservative Republicans — have all agreed that a tougher amusement ride law is needed in the state.

“What we had before was apparently quite pitiful,” said Rep. Susan Humphries, a Wichita Republican. “This is much improved.”

As the law stands, the state has little oversight over amusement rides in Kansas.

Scott Schwab has not commented on the bill.

A steady stream of mourners flowed into the Life Mission Church in Olathe on Friday for the memorial service for 10-year-old Caleb Thomas Schwab, who died Sunday while riding the world’s tallest water slide at the Schlitterbahn water park in Kansa

The Verrückt water slide has been closed since Caleb’s death and is set to be torn down.

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw

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