What began as a fun family outing ended in tragedy when a 10-year-old boy died after falling off the 17 story water slide know as Verrückt at Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City, Kansas.
The Kansas City Star reports that the tragedy occurred on Sunday during a special event for elected officials and their families, who received free admission and lunch.
Caleb Thomas Schwab — the son of Rep. Scott Schwab and his wife, Michele — climbed the 264 metal stairs leading to the top of the slide sometime in mid-afternoon and suffered a fatal neck injury when he fell off the raft about 50 feet from the ground. He first landed on a safety net before plummeting to his death.
Esteban Castaneda told ABC News he first heard a “boom” after which he saw a raft come through and “immediately after the raft … you see a body,” he said. He added there were two women sitting in the back of the raft with blood on them, both of whom suffered mild injuries.
A lifeguard who ran to the scene told Castaneda there was nothing he could do to help as the boy appeared to have been decapitated.
The slide is 168 feet tall — higher than the Statue of Liberty — and its name — Verrückt — means “insane” in German. The slide requires two to three riders to be strapped in a raft with a total weight between 400 and 500 pounds and has a 54 inch height requirement, according to the park’s website. It remains unclear whether Caleb met the height requirement.
Some park guests say the slide’s harness wasn’t working properly earlier in the day.
“A lady in front of me said that multiple times she rode the ride today, the Verrückt , and that the front harness did not work any of the times that she rode it,” park guest Jessica Lundquist told KSHB. Caleb was sitting in the front seat when he fell off the raft.
Reportedly, there were concerns about the safety of Verrückt before it was even finished. The park delayed the opening the slide at least four times due to issues with testing. Schlitterbahn admitted problems with the conveyor system, gearbox and shafts. While the angle of the slide was altered, the company denies it was because rafts were flying off the slide.
The Kansas City Police Department confirmed that the boy died of a fatal neck injury and released a statement offering condolences to Caleb’s family and saying that an investigation is ongoing.
Our deepest condolences to the entire Schwab family on their loss. pic.twitter.com/gYiffrxgkA
— Terry Zeigler (@KCKPDChief) August 9, 2016
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the Kansas lawmaker’s family cover funeral expenses for their youngest son. The campaign set up for state Rep. Scott Schwab’s family had raised more than $30,000 by late Tuesday morning.
A memorial service is planned for Friday afternoon.
The park was closed down after the incident Sunday and will remain closed until Wednesday, while the water slide will be closed indefinitely.