It seems that, for now, the top brass at Schlitterbahn are off the hook (criminally speaking) for the death of a 10-year-old boy. Back in 2016, Caleb Schwab was decapitated while riding Verruckt (German for “crazy”) at Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City.
The slide was known for being the tallest slide in the world before the accident and had it’s own Travel Channel special chronicling the process of building as well as test and adjust. As Theme Park University reported in 2018, murder charges were filed against the owners and designers of Schlitterbahn due to the death of Caleb.
Fast forward to February 22, 2018, a judge in the trial against Schlitterbahn has thrown out the case due to how evidence was given to the 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,” Judge Robert Burns said. “Quite simply, these defendants were not afforded the due process protections and fundamental fairness Kansas law requires.”
A count of involuntary manslaughter was also tossed out for park operations manager, Tyler Miles. According to reports, the jury was shown the now infamous Travel Channel special plus other incidents unrelated to Verruckt that tainted the jury’s ability to understand the case clearly.
If these charges stuck and a jury did convict Schlitterbahn officials with murder? It could have had a lasting impact on the entire attractions industry and possibly set a precedent for cases moving forward.
It is also fair to mention that Caleb’s family was awarded a $20 million settlement. As was the two other people who were in the same raft, for an undisclosed amount.
What happens now? Just like any case, the state Attorney General can file an appeal and take a different approach with the jury. More importantly, it seems that there is a chance that Schlitterbahn Kansas City may not even open for the 2019 season. We will keep you up to date as this unique case unfolds.
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