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Waterslide Ends with Tragedy

A tragic incident of a 10-year-old boy who lost his life at the Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City led to state inspection finding violations on 11 rides including the ride he was on. The audit listed 160 findings with 147 considered to be immediate actions to be taken to repair the rides.

Charles Thomas Schwab, 10 years old, died riding the “Verruct” slide when the raft went airborne. The raft then hit a metal pole causing him severe injuries. Traffically, he died due to his injuries in August 2016.  Charles complied with all the rider instructions. But the ride still costed him his life regardless of him obeying the instructions. Along with Charles, two other women on the same raft as him, were also severely injured. One women suffered a broken jaw. The other a broken bone in her face.


Once the world’s tallest water slide at 168 feet and 7 inches, Jeff henry designed Verruct with co-owner of the water park, John Schooley. With no engineering credentials, Henry controlled many of the key decisions that went into the design of the slide. According to the court, not a single engineer was directly involved with the making or the design of Verruct. After investigations of the slide, experts concluded that the slide’s design guaranteed the raft would go airborne. They even warned it could cause severe injury and even death to riders.

To prove this statement, investigators displayed one of the experiments that was done a week before the slide opened. In that experiment, the raft went airborne and hit the metal rod. Henry and Schooley allegedly knew of the problem. They still decided to open the slide to the public without taking proper actions. Attorneys argued that this put the public at great risk of injury. A month after the slide was opened Henry received a report stating the slide was unfinished and unsafe. Again, he ignored the report and refused to take an action and the slide remained open.

Waterslide Injuries and Death

Over the time the slide had been open, 11 injuries had taken place prior to Caleb’s death. The injuries included:

  • slipped spinal discs
  • concussions
  • broken toes

Regardless of the injuries, the ride stayed open. Park officials made no effort to fix the problem. Instead, they encouraged the lifeguards who witnessed the injuries and observed the problem to change their stories in the company reports.

Even when making repairs as part of maintenance, the water slide had extensive rust and corrosion. Maintenance workers would take immediate actions to repair a broken conveyor belt but ignore the deteriorating brake system. In fact, it failed completely only 10 days before Caleb’s death. Miles allegedly received 21 written staff reports complaining of Verruct brake system in process of failure. Ten days before Caleb’s death, the brake system was an urgent level 1 maintenance issue, which should have led to the ride closing until repaired. But Miles chose to continue to operate the ride and make no repairs. Instead, Miles chose to cover up the complaints and the injuries that took place prior to Caleb’s death.

Now, Tyler Miles and Jeff Henry face charges with multiple felonies in the boy’s death. Miles faces 12 charges of aggravated battery, five child endangerment charges, two charges of interference with law and enforcement and one involuntary manslaughter for Caleb’s death. Additionally, Schooley and Henry face charges of reckless second-degree murder.

Injured at an Amusement Park?

If you or a loved one has been injured at an amusement park and need help with an insurance claim, Arlington Heights personal injury attorney Ronald F. Wittmeyer can help. With more than 30 years experience practicing plaintiffs’ personal injury law, we can fight aggressively on your behalf.

Serving the Northwest suburbs including Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Palatine, and surrounding areas, the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd.helps level the playing field against major insurance companies and corporations. If you’ve been injured or involved in an accident, call our office at (847) 357-0403 or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation with one of our highly qualified Arlington Heights personal injury attorneys. The sooner we can learn about your case and your needs, the more effective we can be at recovering fair and adequate compensation for your losses.

R.F. Wittmeyer

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