The waterslide where Caleb Schwab was killed this weekend had its grand opening delayed for weeks back in 2014 amid a series of technical problems led to concerns about the ride’s safety.
Schwab was killed on Sunday in an accident at Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City, Kansas. A spokeswoman told NBC News that the 10-year-old died while riding Verrückt, which was billed as the world’s tallest waterslide.
Family members released a statement on the death of Caleb Schwab, saying the 10-year-old boy “brought abundant joy to our family and all those he came in contact with.”
“As we try to mend our home with him no longer with us, we are comforted knowing he believed in our Savior Jesus, and they are forever together now,” the family said in the statement released on Sunday. “We will see him another day.”
While details of Caleb Schwab’s death are still emerging, the accident has brought attention to the slide’s history of technical and safety concerns. The opening of the Verrückt waterslide was announced to great fanfare more than two years ago, with officials at Schlitterbahn Water Park releasing video of the 168-foot-tall slide and building anticipation.
Family of the boy killed today at Schlitterbahn just shared his picture.— Christa Dubill (@christadubill) August 8, 2016
His name was Caleb.
Caleb Thomas Schwab
But the grand opening itself was pushed back several times amid concerns over the slide’s safety. Originally slated to start in May, 2014, the opening of the Verrückt waterslide was pushed back to June 5 to allow for more testing. A park spokeswoman said there was a problem with the conveyor belt that brings rafts to the top of the ride, and further technical difficulties pushed the opening back another three weeks.
“When we had problems this weekend, we flew in parts, flew in people, flew in all kinds of stuff,” spokeswoman Winter Prosapio said (via Mashable).
There were rumors at the time that test riders on the Verrückt waterslide were being sent airborne, but park officials denied these reports. They stressed that safety was more important than getting the ride opened early.
“We’ll take embarrassment before putting someone in the slide when it is not ready,” Prosapio said.
But even before the death of Caleb Schwab this weekend, there were concerns about the oversight of the Verrückt waterslide. Though the ride was inspected by the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, to make sure it was structurally sound, there is little oversight overall in the state of Kansas, Mashable noted.
“There are very few, if any, rules in the state of Kansas regulating amusement parks and rider safety,” Unified Government spokesman Edwin Birch said back in 2014.
After the opening of the Verrückt (which is a German word that means “crazy” or “insane”), the Guinness World Records named it the world’s tallest waterslide. It comes with strict requirements, with riders required to be at least 54 inches tall and a scale to make sure the raft reaches the proper weight before being deployed onto the slide.
Riders are required to climb 264 steps to reach the top of the ride, and the Verrückt reaches a top speed of 70 miles per hour on the descent, People magazine noted.
After the death of Caleb Schwab, officials said Schlitterbahn Water Park would be closed while a full investigation is conducted. It’s not known whether Caleb fell off some portion of the 17-story slide, or whether he was injured somewhere on the ride itself.
“We honestly don’t know what’s happened,” Prosapio told reporters via the the Kansas City Star. “That’s why a full investigation is necessary … To be honest, this is not something we’ve experienced.”
It is not yet clear how long the investigation into Caleb Schwab’s death might take.
[Photo by Charlie Riedel/AP Images]