The 10-year-old son of a state lawmaker died over the weekend at a waterpark in Kansas City, Kansas.
The boy died while on the Verrückt water slide at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark. He was killed on a day the park honored elected officials and their families with free admission.
At 17 stories, the 168-foot-tall Verrückt — German for “insane” — is the tallest water slide in the world. It is the highest water slide according to the Guinness World Records. Riders plunge from heights greater than Niagara Falls and the Statue of Liberty, shoot back up a five-story hill, then descend to ground level. The ride lasts just 18 seconds and reaches speeds of up to 70 mph.
The slide made its debut two years ago and has been a top draw. Riders on the Verrückt are supposed to be at least 54 inches tall. Riders sit in a three-person raft and are secured with straps across the waist and shoulders, like a seat belt. The list of rules for riders includes admonitions to remain seated and to hold onto the raft handles at all times. The combined weight of riders per raft must be between 400 and 550 pounds. Riders are weighed at the bottom of the tower and again at the top.
All rides at Schlitterbahn are inspected by employees every day, according to management, and are inspected by an outside party prior to the start of the season. The water slide is covered in netting because the sides of the chute are low so the riders can see out. The initial opening of the Verrückt was delayed several times. In early tests, rafts carrying sandbags flew off the slide causing engineers to tear down half the ride and reconfigure some angles at a cost of $1 million.
Schlitterbahn shut down for days after the accident and the slide will remain closed indefinitely. State law requires a qualified inspector’s approval before the resumption of an amusement ride after a serious injury. The Consumer Product Safety Commission used to oversee permanent rides such as the slide at Schlitterbahn as well as traveling rides such as those found at carnivals and fairs. In 1981, however, the U.S. Congress reduced the commission’s responsibility to only traveling rides. Supervising the safety of permanent rides is now the responsibility of the individual state.
Schlitterbahn has been sued at least three times for negligence since 2014, though none of the suits involved the Verrückt water slide.
A 2013 article in the journal, Clinical Pediatrics, found that between 1990 and 2010, 92,885 children under the age of 17 were treated in hospital emergency departments for injuries involving amusement park rides. That’s an average of 4,423 injuries annually. Even though only 1.5 percent of injuries resulted in hospitalization, the study suggested: “There are opportunities to improve the safety of amusement rides for children, especially to prevent injuries from falls.”
A 2014 review of safety data from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs revealed that water slides — not roller coasters — are the biggest source of injuries among people seeking thrills at amusement parks and carnivals. Out of 552 amusement ride incidents over the previous five years, 122 of them happened on a water slide.
Every person who is injured by a wrongful act or defective device deserves compensation. If you suspect a loved one was harmed or died as a result of such an act, call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian at 1-800-529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.
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