A Kansas water park owner and his chief operations officer knew that their newest water slide was deadly before it decapitated a 10-year-old boy, an indictment claims.
Caleb Schwab was killed in August 2016 while riding the 170-foot Verrückt water slide at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City.
Now a grand jury have indicted Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeffery Henry and his former employee Tyler Austin Miles on 20 felony charges, including involuntary manslaughter for Schwab’s death.
Designer John Schooley were charged with reckless second-degree murder, along with Henry & Sons Construction Co., which is described as the private construction company of Schlitterbahn.
Second-degree murder carries a sentence of 9 years to 41 years in prison.
The indictment has revealed numerous allegations of negligence, including that Miles and Henry ignored safety red flags in their quest to build the world’s tallest water slide, according to the Washington Post.
Schlitterbahn Waterpark co-owner Jeffery Henry (left) and his chief operations officer Tyler Austin Miles (right) knew their newest water slide was deadly before it decapitated a 10-year-old boy, a new indictment has claimed
Caleb Schwab (pictured) was horrifically killed in August 2016 while riding the 170-foot Verrückt water slide at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City
Schlitterbahn and Miles have also been charged with several counts of aggravated battery, aggravated endangering a child, and interference with law enforcement.
Investigators claim Henry and Miles knew that Verrückt was dangerous but rushed to get the ride open, even replacing mathematical calculations with ‘crude trial-and-error methods’.
It also cites comments from Henry in which he plainly states that the slide is a ‘seriously dangerous piece of equipment’.
‘[Verrückt] could hurt me, it could kill me,’ Henry stated, according to the indictment. ‘There are things that we don’t know about it.’
‘Every day we learn more. I’ve seen what this one has done to the crash dummies and to the boats we sent down it…it’s complex, it’s fast, it’s mean.’
‘If we mess up, it could be the end. I could die going down this ride.’
The indictment has revealed numerous allegations of negligence, including that Miles and Henry ignored safety red flags in their quest to build the world’s tallest water slide
The Verruckt slide, which is a German word for ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’, has been closed since the boy’s death. It is nearly 170-feet tall and features a 17-story plunge
The indictment also states that Henry and Miles tried to hide from investigators reports of a number of injuries that had occurred on the ride before Schwab’s death.
It was Henry who came up wit the idea for Verrückt, wanting to build a ride that would impress producers of the Xtreme Waterparks series on the Travel Channel, according to the indictment.
Henry designed the ride with his business partner Schooley, despite the fact that neither of them ‘had any credentials in mathematics, physics, or engineering’.
The pair raced to have the entire slide finished in just seven months, completing a prototype of the ambitious ride in just 36 days.
An engineering firm was then hired to test the slide’s safety just a week before its grand opening.
The tests showed that, when carrying a weight of 400 to 550lbs, the rafts on the slide were likely to go airborne.
This was especially dangerous as the slide was covered with a net suspended by metal hoops, meaning riders could knock into them if the raft went airborne.
Two women, Hannah Barnes and Matraca Baetz, who rode behind Caleb on that ride were also seriously injured, but survived
The indictment also states that Henry and Miles tried to hide from investigators reports of a number of injuries that had occurred on the ride before Schwab’s death
Investigators say the company ignored obvious red flags and safety violations in regards to the slide. Henry allegedly pushed for it to be done in seven months despite knowing it was unsafe
The indictment notes that this is in violation of international standards that prohibit a ride from obstructing a rider’s path.
‘Henry and Schooley did the opposite,’ the indictment states. ‘They installed metal bars directly across the known flight path.’
‘The presence of the overheard netting and support hoops speaks volumes about the designers’ extreme disregard for the value of human life.’
Schwab was decapitated when his raft collided with the hoops, and two women he was riding with suffered bone fractures and lacerations.
The indictment claims that Henry was well aware of this problem and tried to fix it before eventually ignoring it entirely.
It states that 13 people total were injured in the two years the ride was opened, with some reporting neck pain and even concussions.
Schwab’s family (pictured) settled a multiple defendant lawsuit with Schlitterbahn for $20million last year
Caleb is pictured here with his father, Kansas state Representative Scott Schwab
Investigators also revealed that designers scratched a plan to make the minimum age 14 years old to ride the slide on the eve of its grand opening.
Henry was arrested on Monday in Texas and is being held without bond until a court appearance on Tuesday.
Miles, who left the company in September, turned himself in on Friday to the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Office and was released on $50,000 bond.
Schlitterbhan spokeswoman Winter Prosapio said in a statement that considering last week’s indictment, the company is not surprised by Henry’s arrest.
‘We as a company and as a family will fight these allegations and have confidence that once the facts are presented it will be clear that what happened on the ride was an unforeseeable accident,’ she said in an emailed statement.
‘The safety of our Schlitterbahn guests and employees has been at the forefront of our culture throughout our 40 years of operation. Many of us rode Verrückt regularly, as did our children and grandchildren.’
Verruckt, which is a German word for ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’, has been closed since the boy’s death. It was named the world’s tallest water slide in 2014.
The slide, however, still remains standing due to a court order to facilitate investigation.
Schwab’s family settled a multiple defendant lawsuit with Schlitterbahn, an affiliated general contractor called Henry & Sons Construction, the raft manufacturer Zebec USA, and a consultant named John Hunsucker for $19.7 million last year.