News that the owners of the Schlitterbahn water park will begin demolition of the long-abandoned Verruckt water slide on Nov. 1 will be welcomed by the Kansas City community.
The massive attraction — which, in retrospect, should never have been built — closed in 2016 after 10-year-old Caleb Schwab was killed while riding it. Since that tragedy, the unused 17-story ride has provided a grim and constant reminder of the incident and the folly that led to it.
Schlitterbahn said it would close the ride forever, but there was skepticism. Some worried Verruckt would never come down.
As it turns out, investigators needed access to the structure for various legal reasons.
The end of Verruckt does not mean the end of this sad story.
Criminal charges are still pending against the park and people involved in the design and operation of the ride. Area residents, especially the park’s customers, will want to watch those cases carefully.
But the destruction of Verruckt should give Schlitterbahn’s current management team time to reflect on their operation of the facility.
Four rides at the park remain closed because of concerns raised in a Kansas audit conducted in May.
The company has complained that auditors have been tougher on Schlitterbahn than other amusement facilities. They’ve said the violations involve paperwork and record-keeping, not the rides themselves.
But records examined by The Star suggest auditors were concerned with maintenance guidelines, too. And paperwork is important: It reflects training, ride safety, product updates, customer satisfaction.
We don’t think Kansas is being unnecessarily tough on Schlitterbahn. Even if auditors are cracking down on the park, though, Schlitterbahn should accept — even welcome — such heightened scrutiny.
Some risk is involved with nearly all amusement rides. But park patrons have every right to expect a basic level of safety.
Kansas has taken some steps to meet those expectations. Schlitterbahn should respond in kind by promising openness and transparency instead of complaining about inspectors.
The park must do everything it can to convince the public it has learned lessons from the horrific 2016 tragedy. Otherwise, customers will take their business somewhere else, and they’ll be right to do so.