Politician's ten-year-old son dies on 'world's largest' water slide
Published 08/08/2016 | 06:25
The son of a Kansas politician died on a water slide that is billed as the world's largest.
Caleb Schwab, 10, was killed in the incident at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark, which is located about 15 miles west of Kansas City, Missouri.
His father, Scott Schwab, is a Republican member of the Kansas House of Representatives from Olathe. He and his wife, Michele, have four sons.
The family issued a statement revealing that Caleb had died, and asking for privacy as they grieve.
"Since the day he was born, he brought abundant joy to our family and all those he came in contact with," the statement said.
Schlitterbahn spokeswoman Winter Prosapio said the child died on one of the park's main attractions, Verruckt, a 168-foot-tall water slide that has 264 stairs leading to the top. The slide's name means "insane" in German.
The park was closed after the incident on Sunday and will remain shut on Monday, and the ride is closed pending an investigation, Ms Prosapio said.
"We honestly don't know what's happened," she said. "That's why ... a full investigation is necessary. We have to understand what's happened."
Ms Prosapio said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time," adding that the boy's family had been at the park with him.
She said the park's rides are inspected daily, and inspected by an "outside party" before the start of each season.
The authorities initially said the victim was aged 12, but Clint Sprague, a pastor who is acting as a spokesman for the family, said Caleb was 10.
Verruckt was certified as the world's tallest water slide by Guinness World Records. Verruckt riders go down the slide in multi-person rafts and have to be at last 54 inches tall, according to the park's website.
The slide's 2014 opening was delayed a few times, though the operators did not provide reasons for the delays. Two media sneak preview days in 2014 were cancelled because of problems with a conveyor system that hauls 100lb rafts to the top of the slide.
Ms Prosapio had said in 2014 that park officials would not hesitate to delay operations again for however long it took to make sure the slide was safe.
In 2014, Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeff Henry told USA Today that he and senior designer John Schooley had based their calculations when designing the slide on rollercoasters, but that did not translate well to a water slide like Verruckt.
In early tests, rafts carrying sandbags flew off the slide, prompting engineers to tear down half of the ride and reconfigure some angles at a cost of 1 million dollars, Mr Henry said.
A promotional video for a show about building the slide includes footage of two men riding a raft down a half-size test model and going slightly airborne as it crests the top of the first big hill.