People around the world have heard of the tragic death on what is advertised as the world’s largest water slide. The water slide, located at a water park in Kansas City, is taller than Niagara Falls. The slide is called the Verruckt water slide, and it operates in a way most patrons wouldn’t expect. For example, instead of sliding down the slide lying down on your back, you are strapped into a raft with two other people. The raft then plunges down a 17-story drop. Afterwards, the raft rockets up a hill that is 5-stories high. The ride then falls down the final hill to safety below. Tragically, there was no safety on that final hill on August 7, 2016. On that date, a ten-year-old boy named Caleb Schwab was killed on the final hill of the water slide.
Since the tragedy, people have been waiting anxiously to know exactly what happened to Caleb. Initially, the water park, Schlitterbahn Kansas City, said they didn’t know what happened. Shortly after the death, the water park told the Kansas City Star, “We honestly don’t know what’s happened. This is not something we’ve experienced [before].” Now we do know, and it is certain everyone else near the water slide during the horrific experience must have known too.
Authorities are now releasing the specific details of what happened on that water slide on August 7th. We now know there were two women in the raft with Caleb. At some point during the ride, Caleb’s safety harness broke. After his raft hit the 5-story hill, he was flung upwards and out of the raft. Once airborne, he collided with the safety netting located above the water slide. His momentum from the water slide caused him to be decapitated by the netting. The netting, designed to be a safety feature that allowed riders to have an incredible view, is what killed Caleb.
People magazine was the first to report to the world exactly what Schlitterbahn Kansas City refused to say. John Foster, a man at the water park on that fateful day, told People, “It looked like he must have somehow been ejected from his seat, bounced around between the netting and the slide and just slid down. He would have fallen down without the raft. It’s kind of like a tube.” One can only imagine what Foster and the two women with Caleb on the raft must have felt.
After the accident, the entire park was closed. The water slide will be closed indefinitely. The water slide originally opened on July 10, 2014. Disturbingly, the ride was eventually opened after many delays regarding the water slide’s safety. Rafts were reportedly going airborne on the slide during testing. After it finally opened, Jeff Henry, the creator of the water slide and a co-owner of the park, said, “It’s dangerous, but it’s a safe dangerous now. Schlitterbahn is a family water park, but this isn’t a family ride. It’s for thrill seekers of the world, people into extreme adventure.” In other words, Henry knew the ride had experienced unacceptable danger levels before. Regardless, he decided to open it anyway.
Young Caleb was the son of Scott Schwab, a Kansas state representative. His family was at the park for a type of public official appreciation day. The Schwab family has received an outpouring of sympathy and support. It is unclear as to what type of punishment the water park will receive for operating the water slide. Hopefully, it will be enough to never let something like this happen again.