Pastor Clint Sprague, the spokesperson of Caleb Schwab’s family, said their community is left heartbroken following the boy’s tragic death. The pastor of the LifeMission Church remembered Caleb as a “hugger who loved his parents, sports, and Jesus.”
“Caleb was a 10-year-old child, but in many ways, he was a man of God. He’s going to be missed for his energy, for his life, for his smile, for the way he lit up a room.”
He went on to say that “it’s been devastating at every level.” That day, after attending church, the family went to Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City. The park was then celebrating Elected Officials Day.
However, the son of state lawmaker Scott Schwab was killed while riding the park’s Verrückt water slide. The attraction, whose German name translates to “insane,” stands taller than Niagara Falls and is deemed the world’s tallest waterslide by Guinness World Records.
The park’s website describes describe the ride as apt for adventure seekers.
“Adventure seekers will be able to share this experience as they strap into a 3 person raft that will slide down a jaw dropping 168 foot 7 inch structure, only to be blasted back up a second massive hill and then sent down yet another gut wrenching 50 foot drop for the ultimate in water slide thrills!”
Verrückt used to have an age restriction of 14 and above, but it was lifted. It now specifies that riders must be at least 54 inches tall and must not weigh more than 300 pounds. It is stated as well that the group’s combined weight must be between 400 to 550 pounds.
There are no exact details yet on what went wrong, but Kansas City Police cited “fatal neck injury” as the cause of death. The two women who were with Caleb during the ride suffered facial injuries. Caleb wasn’t related to them.
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
Witness Esteban Castaneda described the harrowing scene to ABC News. He recalled hearing a loud noise and seeing a body trailing the ride’s raft. He quickly ran to the area and saw Caleb laying in the water. He tried to help but the lifeguard told him there’s nothing he could do.
The witness had also ridden Verrückt earlier in the day with his teenage niece. She told him that towards the end of the ride, the Velcro of her safety belt malfunctioned and came undone.
Verrückt’s opening was initially delayed because of glitches. It was supposed to open on Memorial Day 2014, but during test runs, some of the sandbag-carrying rafts kept flying off the chute. The glitch was featured on Travel Channel’s Xtreme Waterparks show, which documented Verrückt’s construction.
Verrückt creator and Schlitterbahn’s co-owner Jeff Henry previously told USA Today that it wasn’t easy to set up the attraction.
“We had many issues on the engineering side. A lot of our math was based on roller coasters at first, and that didn’t translate to a water slide like this. No one had ever done anything like this before.”
Apart from reducing the slide’s slope to decrease the raft’s speed, the team also opted to put net enclosures. Despite their efforts to remedy the glitches, Henry still warned that the water slide isn’t meant for families.
“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 the thrill seekers of the world, people into extreme adventure.”
As per the publication, Schlitterbahn had to spend over $1 million to fix the glitches.
While Schlitterbahn is tentatively set to reopen on Wednesday, the ride remains closed for further investigation. The waterpark has also provided grief counselors for employees and guests impacted by the accident.
Memorial services for Caleb will be held on Friday at the Life Mission Church in Olathe.
[Image via Charlie Riedel / AP]