KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two sisters who were injured in a Kansas waterslide accident that killed a state lawmaker’s 10-year-old son have reached a legal settlement with the water park’s owner, pushing the slide closer to its planned demolition.
Attorney Lynn Johnson on Wednesday confirmed the out-of-court deal between his clients and the Schlitterbahn park over the tragedy involving the 17-story “Verruckt,” which had been billed as the world’s tallest waterslide.
Johnson declined to reveal details of the settlement, which he said were reached after mediation. The sisters’ names haven’t been released.
“They’re glad to put this behind them,” Johnson said of the sisters, who survived the Aug. 7 raft ride that killed Caleb Schwab. “Their hearts still go out to Caleb’s family.”
Schwab’s family reached a settlement in January with Schlitterbahn and the raft’s manufacturer, though it left open the possibility for potential claims against others, including the Verruckt’s designer.
Winter Prosapio, a spokeswoman for Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts, said Wednesday that the park’s owners remain committed to permanently removing the slide from its 168-foot tower once a court declares the slide no longer is needed for evidentiary purposes.
“Certainly it would be good for all parties for the slide to come down. We just need permission,” she said. “We’re thankful to have reached settlements with the impacted parties. But there still are no words adequate to address what happened in August. The loss was devastating, and our thoughts and prayers will always be with the families.”
No charges have been filed in the matter. Authorities said the Kansas City, Kansas, police investigation of the death of Caleb — the son of Republican Kansas state Rep. Scott Schwab — has been turned over to the Kansas Attorney General’s Office. A spokeswoman for that office said Wednesday by email that that matter remains under review.
The “Verruckt” — German for “insane” — was closed after Caleb Schwab died. He was decapitated, a person familiar with the investigation previously told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because that person was not authorized to speak publicly about the boy’s death.
Verruckt featured multi-person rafts that make a 17-story drop at speeds of up to 70 mph, followed by a surge up a hump and a 50-foot descent to a finishing pool.
Riders, who were required to be at least 54 inches tall, were harnessed with two nylon seatbelt-like straps — one crossing the rider’s lap, the other stretching diagonally like a car shoulder seatbelt. Each strap was held in place by long straps that close with fabric fasteners, not buckles. Riders held ropes inside the raft.
At the time of Caleb’s death, Kansas was known for its light regulation of amusement park rides, and the Texas-based company that operates Schlitterbahn lobbied legislators to help ensure that it remained responsible for its own inspections.
But Kansas lawmakers last week signed off on legislation that requires amusement park rides to be inspected every year by a qualified, board-certified inspector, an engineer with two years of experience in the amusement park field, or someone with five years of experience in the field, with two of those years in inspections. Current law requires inspections but allows amusement park owners do the checks themselves.
The bill also would require parks to report injuries.
As of Wednesday, it hadn’t reached Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, who has said he wanted to look at it but would follow the lead of Caleb’s father, who supports the bill.