Two maintenance workers at the Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City have been charged in connection to the 2016 accident that killed 10-year-old Caleb Schwab on the park’s former Verruckt attraction, MSN is reporting.
David Hughes and John Zalsman are both charged with obstruction of justice in relation to their roles in allegedly covering up at least some of the events that led to the young lad’s death two years ago.
On August 7, 2016, Caleb, the son of Kansas state representative Scott Schwab, died while riding Verruckt, a water slide that, at the time, was billed as the tallest water slide in the world (Verruckt is German for “Crazy”). According to a 2016 Time report, the young boy boarded a ride vehicle — a raft — with two adult women. At some point during the ride, he was ejected from the raft, and allegedly was decapitated. He was found dead in the pool at the bottom of the attraction.
Almost immediately, allegations began to emerge of flaws in the ride. The two women who rode with Caleb, as well as other park guests who rode the ride that day, claimed that the ride’s seat belt malfunctioned.
As it turns out, a two-year investigation into what happened that day has revealed that a malfunctioning seat belt was likely the least of the problems on the water slide.
According to Wednesday’s indictment against the two maintenance workers, the braking systems, passenger restraints, air compressors, and rafts on Verruckt “failed repeatedly,” but that maintenance workers only did the repairs necessary to keep riders going through the attraction. Ten days before Schwab died, the braking system “failed completely,” yet Verruckt was allowed to continue operating.
As for Hughes and Zalsman, they’re both charged with lying to Kansas Bureau of Investigation agents, according to KCTV (Kansas City). Specifically they allegedly told investigators that a brake mat that would have slowed the ride vehicle “never existed,” even though GoPro footage from another rider clearly shows the malfunctioning brake mat.
Two years after Caleb died, a total of seven criminal indictments have been issued against people and corporate entities tied to Schlitterbahn. The most serious charges have been levied against Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeff Henry, Verruckt designer John Schooley, and general contractor Henry & Sons Construction. They’re all charged with second-degree manslaughter, aggravated battery, and aggravated endangerment of a child.
Meanwhile, Verruckt still stands, inoperable, at the Kansas-City-area water park. Though park officials had planned to take it down, it will remain standing as long as the KBI investigation into Schwab’s death continues.