Owners of world's tallest waterslide that decapitated a child will not be charged
Two-and-a-half years ago, in August 2016, 10-year-old Caleb Schwab was killed while riding on a 17-story waterslide at the Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City, Kansas. The slide, which was called "Verrückt" (the German word for "crazy"), was shut down immediately after the incident happened, and the park's owners were indicted on a number of charges including involuntary manslaughter, 12 counts of aggravated battery and five counts of aggravated endangering a child.
Now, after a lengthy investigation, the charges against the water park and its former operations director, Tyler Miles, have been dropped, as the judge presiding over the matter did not think it would be possible to find an impartial jury.
"The court has grave doubts as to whether the irregularities and improprieties improperly influenced the grand jury and ultimately bolstered its decision to indict these defendants," saidWyandotte County Judge Robert Burns. "Quite simply, these defendants were not afforded the due process protections and fundamental fairness Kansas law requires."
In the two years that the ride was open, 11 other people were injured, and even the park's co-owner, Jeffrey Wayne Henry, said that he believed it could cause a fatality.
"[Verrückt] could hurt me, it could kill me, it is a seriously dangerous piece of equipment today because there are things that we don't know about it," Henry reportedly said prior to Schwab's death. "I could die going down this ride."
Despite this, the judge has ruled that evidence given against the park's owners - including clips from a Travel Channel show that supposedly exaggerated the ride's danger - would not allow for an unbiased jury.
"Upon viewing the video, the court concludes this exhibit was not a likeness of what it purported to represent," Burns reportedly said, "and depicted a staged demonstration for entertainment purposes, not a factual depiction of the design and construction of the water slide."
Defence attorneys also argued that one expert testimony against their clients was inaccurate, as it claimed that ride owners neglected the American Society of Testing and Materials' industry standards when building Verrückt - but these standards were not required at the time 168-foot-tall slide was built.
"I obviously recognize that the circumstances and events giving rise to these indictments are indisputably tragic," the judge said. "A young child’s life was lost and his troubling death was mourned by family, friends, and the entire Kansas City community and beyond."
The defence also argued that Miles' actions were not those of someone who genuinely believed the ride could have been fatal, as, according to his lawyer, "Not only had Tyler ridden the slide numerous times, but, as the State is aware, he had scheduled his wife, to ride it on the day of the accident."
Caleb Schwab's parents have not yet commented on the matter, but the statement they gave at the time of his death is still painful to read:
"Since the day he was born, he brought abundant joy to our family and all those who he came in contact with. As we try and mend our home with him no longer with us, we are comforted knowing he believed in his Savior, Jesus, and they are forever together now. We will see him another day."
Schlitterbahn has expressed its gratitude at the charges being dropped.