This past Friday, a Kansas judge dropped charges against the owners of Schlitterbahn water park, home to the world’s tallest water slide, Verrückt. Caleb Schwab, son of Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab, was decapitated while riding the water slide when the raft he was in went airborne and made impact with equipment attached to the ride. Two other women were also injured.
Back in March, a grand jury had indicted the owners of the park saying that they were aware of the safety risks and kept the ride operational despite that. However, Wyandotte County Judge Robert Burns dropped the case, explaining that it had been tainted with misleading evidence.
The judge stated…
“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. Quite simply, these defendants were not afforded the due process protections and fundamental fairness Kansas law requires.”
One of the pieces of evidence that the judge questioned was a clip from a Travel Channel show, which was used as a tool to play up the ride’s danger.
On this, the judge said…
“Upon viewing the video, the court concludes this exhibit was not a likeness of what it purported to represent and depicted a staged demonstration for entertainment purposes, not a factual depiction of the design and construction of the water slide.”
Also in question was expert testimony given that claimed that the defendants failed to meet the standards of the American Society of Testing and Materials when they built the massive water slide. However, these standards were not mandatory when the ride was built.
The original indictment read…
“Verrückt suffered from a long list of dangerous design flaws. However, the most obvious and potentially lethal flaw was that Verrückt’s design guaranteed that rafts would occasionally go airborne in a manner that could severely injure or kill the occupants.”
Judge Burns acknowledged the tragic nature of the case.
“I obviously recognize that the circumstances and events giving rise to these indictments are indisputably tragic. A young child’s life was lost and his troubling death was mourned by family, friends, and the entire Kansas City community and beyond.”
Kansas’ Attorney General Derek Schmidt expressed his disappointment in Judge Burns’ ruling, and explained that his office would look at what the best path forward is.
People were shocked that the charges were dropped.
You wanna know what saddens me? The owners of that infernal water park out by @kansasspeedway will never suffer the consequences of their actions (or lack thereof) in the death of Caleb Schwab back in ‘17. I think the case should be reopened immediately. #justiceforcaleb— Daniel Keeling (@007DannyKay) February 24, 2019
The family received nearly $20 million dollars in settlements from their civil suit, but no amount can make up for the loss of their child.
The family of Caleb Schwab, the 10-year-old boy killed at a Kansas water park last year, will receive nearly $20 million in settlements https://t.co/OM6wY1Sl6n— Giancarlo Croce 🏳️🌈✡️ (@Mendacity_Q) May 5, 2017
As a parent, I cannot fathom losing a child. And then to find out that no one will be held responsible...it's just awful— Sara Simpson (@JerseySaraKC) February 22, 2019
Some warned that the consequences of staying silent go beyond criminal liability.
If you know something and don't speak up, it will haunt you forever. #justiceforcaleb— Jen Stricklin (@jen_stricklin) February 18, 2019
Our hearts go out to the Schwab family.