Police have finally released the cause of death for Caleb Schwab following a horrific water park accident last Sunday. A source close to the investigation confirmed on Wednesday how the 10-year-old boy died. However, exact details on how Caleb Schwab was decapitated on the world’s tallest water slide have not yet been released, according to a new report by the Guardian.
Caleb Schwab, the son of Republican member of the Kansas House of Representatives, Scott Schwab, died on Sunday while riding the Verruckt water slide at the Schlitterbahn WaterPark in Kansas City, Kansas. Two women riding with Caleb at the time of the fatal accident suffered minor injuries, but couldn’t say for sure how the boy had died. A witness to the accident, Kelsey Friedrichsen, 27, recalls that one of the women was being treated for an unspecified head and face injury.
Friedrichsen went on to say that first responders could be seen covering the body of Caleb Schwab at the bottom of the slide, with a large group of onlookers gathered around.
Not many details surrounding Caleb Schwab’s death had been released to the public until now. Police had only been saying that Caleb died from an apparent neck injury. But after a source said the Kansas fifth grader had actually been decapitated, police finally decided to confirm the cause of death.
Parents, Scott and Michele, have not released details about how their son died, and a spokeswoman for the Schlitterbahn has said that the water park will also not discuss the boy’s tragic death. But two teenagers who witnessed the accident on Sunday spoke in an interview that was published on the Sun. The two teenage girls, Jess Sanford and Melanie Gocke, said they heard a noise, looked over, and witnessed Caleb Schwab sliding down the last half of the 17-story water slide.
“I saw his broken neck and him sliding down the slide leaving a blood trail.”
Gocke went on to say that a friend of Caleb’s was screaming for help, but park staff members and medics who got there first didn’t try to revive him, because it was apparent from his traumatic neck injury that he was already dead.
Verruckt creator Jess Henry confessed that riding the water slide was the scariest thing he’s ever done, and he compared the ride to jumping off the Empire State Building. However, according to Henry, the Verruckt is dangerous, but safe, even though there were many engineering issues when building the water slide that’s taller than Niagara Falls.
The German word Verruckt actually means crazy or insane, but that doesn’t stop Schlitterbahn visitors from riding the water slide at speeds of nearly 70 mph. The Verruckt remained closed on Wednesday when the park reopened, but one visitor from a couple of weeks ago, 42-year-old Sara Craig, said that her shoulder restraint came off when she rode the Verruckt, and the restraint on her 13-year-old son’s friend also came loose.
Craig chose not to report the incident, but apparently, glitches, belts coming undone, and water rafts flying off the side of the Verruckt are common complaints, since even before the water slide finally opened on July 10, 2014, after multiple delays to fix issues. NBC affiliate NewsWest 9 reports that the entire Schlitterbahn WaterPark, along with the Verruckt, passed an insurance company inspection just two months ago.
“This survey reflects the conditions observed or found at the time of the inspection only, and does not certify safety or integrity of the rides and attractions, physical operations or management practices at any time in the future.”
In fact, the private inspection was only based on visual observation of the water park and the rides. An article published on the Denver Post says that Kansas has very lenient inspection laws governing amusement rides, and no specific state statutes concerning water slides. Regulations only require that permanent amusement rides must be “scrutinized” once a year by a qualified inspector.
The Schlitterbahn Kansas City water park had reportedly not been keeping records of inspections for the current or previous years. Police have said that they will not release specific details on how exactly Caleb Schwab died on the Verruckt until after their investigation is complete, but witness Kelsey Friedrichsen told People Magazine that it looked like Caleb had been ejected from his raft and then bounced around between the netting and the slide.
Unknown is how exactly Caleb Schwab was decapitated on his way down the Verruckt water slide, but the restraint system could have had something to do with it. One wide right shoulder strap secured only by velcro rests on the body at an angle to the neck, much like a seatbelt, while another strap stretches over the lap. An amusement park safety consultant out of Virginia, Ken Martin, questioned the safety of the straps, and a professor of engineering out of North Carolina, Jon Rust, said the straps are not designed to keep a person in the seat.
There’s also a large hump towards the end of the Verruckt that riders say have caused them to become airborne, leaving people to wonder if the shoulder strap could have decapitated Caleb Schwab as he flew up into the air and slid back down. Sara Craig described the ride as “very, very rough,” so much so that “when I got off, my head hurt.”
[Image via Praying4_MS/Twitter]