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 August 6, 2023

Murder charges dismissed after 10-year-old dies on waterslide

In 2016, a horrifying accident at Schlitterbahn Waterpark led to criminal charges, legal drama, and a heightened conversation about safety regulations in amusement parks.

The tragedy occurred on the Verrückt waterslide, which at the time was the world's tallest waterslide. This monster of a ride, standing at 168ft high, was where 10-year-old Caleb Schwab met his untimely death.

On that fateful day, Caleb's raft, riding over the slide's 50-foot hump, went airborne and collided with a metal bar supporting a safety net above, People reported.

Specifically, the impact was so severe that it caused the young boy's decapitation, his body and head violently ejected from the raft.

Schlitterbahn Waterpark has faced backlash and criticism following the incident, and rightly so. The ride's safety measures were found to be seriously wanting, with former employees revealing that both ride inspections and staff training were inadequate. This devastating incident has left the family and witnesses traumatized and has raised important questions about amusement park safety.

A grim aftermath: Criminal charges and dismissal

The severity of the incident led to criminal charges of second-degree murder and reckless behavior against several key individuals. These included Jeffrey Wayne Henry and John Timothy Schooley, co-owners of Schlitterbahn Companies and designers of the waterslide, as well as Henry & Sons Construction Company, Inc., who were involved in building the slide.

The case took a twist when a state court judge dismissed these charges due to the presentation of "illegal" evidence to the grand jury, The US Sun reported.

The prosecutors were accused of showing made-for-TV video footage from a Travel Channel show, "Xtreme Waterparks", which was meant to demonstrate a reckless attitude toward the construction of the slide. The judge sided with defense attorneys who claimed that grand jurors were shown additional evidence that related to a death from a different Schlitterbahn waterpark, which they argued was improper.

Despite the dismissal of the charges, the Kansas attorney general indicated that he may still consider future criminal charges. This possibility brings some measure of hope to the Schwabs, who are still grappling with the loss of their son and the ensuing legal drama.

Family receives $20 million settlement

In the midst of this heartbreaking tragedy and legal struggle, Caleb's family received a substantial settlement. Two companies associated with Texas-based Schlitterbahn, along with the ride's general contractor, the raft manufacturer, and a consultant on the slide, paid the family nearly $20 million in settlement payments.

Yet, no amount of money can truly compensate for the loss of a young life. This tragic incident serves as a stark reminder of the importance of safety regulations and thorough inspections in amusement parks.

The now infamous Verrückt waterslide has been approved for demolition following the completion of the investigation and trial on the criminal charges. The removal of the slide might provide a small degree of closure for the family and other affected parties.

The impact on the Schwab family and broader implications

Next, the impact of this incident on the Schwab family, particularly Caleb's parents and his 12-year-old brother Nathan, has been profound and life-altering.

Not only were they forced to cope with the unimaginable loss of a child and brother, but they also had to face the legal implications of such a tragedy.

Caleb's father, Scott Schwab, a former Kansas lawmaker and current Kansas secretary of state, has used his political platform to push for increased safety measures in amusement parks, hoping that no other family would have to endure a similar tragedy.

Lessons to learn from this tragedy

  1. Safety should always come first: No thrill or entertainment is worth risking life. Strict safety measures, including routine inspections, need to be in place to ensure the well-being of the visitors.
  2. Adequate staff training is crucial: The staff handling amusement park rides need proper and regular training to manage any emergencies or accidents.
  3. Regulation enforcement is necessary: Government bodies and relevant authorities need to ensure that all amusement parks abide by safety regulations, conducting frequent inspections, and enforcing penalties for non-compliance.

This incident serves as a harsh reminder that amusement parks, often associated with fun and enjoyment, can turn tragic if safety regulations are not strictly followed. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that such incidents are not repeated and that every necessary measure is taken to ensure safety and prevent accidents.

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Written By: Rampart Stonebridge

I'm Rampart Stonebridge, a curious and passionate writer who can't get enough of true crime. As a criminal investigative journalist, I put on my detective hat, delving deep into each case to reveal the hidden truths. My mission? To share engaging stories and shed light on the complexities of our mysterious world, all while satisfying your curiosity about the intriguing realm of true crime.
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