Official claims owner's had knowledge of the dangers of the design
A personal injury and drowning accident lawyer discusses the criminal prosecutions related to this tragedy.
In a previous post, we reported on the criminal indictments returned by a Kansas City, KS grand jury against officials of Schlitterbahn Waterpark-Kansas City. In today’s post our theme park personal injury/drowning accident attorney will examine the business practices of the Schlitterbahn corporation, the park’s owner and the operator of four additional theme parks in Texas.
As we noted in our earlier posting, the grand jury indicted five people or corporations that it felt were responsible for the death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab in 2016. In addition to privately-held Schlitterbahn, the four individuals or corporations named in the indictments were:
- Tyler Austin Miles, 29, the former operations director at the park, faces twenty felony charges including twelve charges of aggravated battery, five child endangerment charges, two charges of interference with law enforcement and one charge of reckless second-degree murder. He entered a plea of “not guilty” in court on March 30th of this year and was released on $50,000 bail.
- Jeffrey Wayne Henry, whose privately-owned corporation was a co-owner of Schlitterbahn-Kansas City, was also indicted on the same charges. He was arrested by United States Marshalls in Cameron County, Texas and appeared at an extradition hearing on March 27th of this year. The Associates Press reports that he is currently being held in a Texas jail while appealing the order that sends him back to Kansas to appear at a criminal trial later this year.
- John Schooley, who is listed as a defendant co-designer of the “Verruckt” waterslide (Verruckt is the German word that is usually translated as "insane"), was also indicted on a single charge of involuntary manslaughter, five charges of aggravated endangering a child and twelve charges of aggravated battery alleging negligence in the Verruckt’s design that were related to the death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab and previous injuries to at least a dozen park patrons. Schooley’s attorney reported that Schooley was out of the country at the time the indictments were issued, but that he is planning to return as soon as possible to defend himself against all criminal charges made against him.
- Henry & Sons Construction Co. Inc., Schlitterbahn’s private construction company and the builder of the Verruckt, was also named in the indictment.
The legal issues involved in a wrongful death case
As our theme park accident and drowning accident lawyer has pointed out, is not unusual for wrongful death and personal injury lawsuit to be filed after accidents such as those resulting in the death of young Caleb Schwab. In fact, the Schwab family settled such a lawsuit out-of-court within a year of the accident for a reported $20 million! What is unusual about this case is the fact that that the evidence presented in a civil lawsuit has led to criminal charges against the venue and its officers / employees.
During the preliminary phase of the Schwab family’s lawsuit, “whistleblowers” within the Schlitterbahn Waterpark-Kansas City organization alerted the family’s lawyers to several disturbing facts concerning the history of the Verruckt, which had been certified as “the world’s tallest waterslide” by the Guinness Book of World Records. Among those revelations were:
- Neither Henry or Schooley, the designers of the Verruckt, experience in designing an attraction of the Verruckt's size and complexity and had, in fact, ignored numerous design and safety concerns during both its design and construction phases.
- Henry & Sons Construction, the Verruckt's builder, had never before attempted the construction of such a project.
- The Verruckt’s construction was apparently rushed to completion in order to impress the producers of a television “reality” program that focuses its programming content on theme park rides.
- Once the Verruckt “went live,” there had been over a dozen serious injuries caused by the Verruckt prior to Caleb Schwab’s death.
- The owners and managers of Schlitterbahn Waterpark-Kansas City were aware of all the previously-mentioned safety concerns well before Caleb’s death yet failed to take appropriate and necessary actions that could have reduced the risk of injury to riders and, furthermore, deliberately attempted to conceal such information from the state and federal safety agencies as well as from the Schwab family’s attorneys.
Improperly constructed, maintained, or operated, theme park rides can be dangerous
From the information presented in this post, as well as in other posts presented on this web site, three facts should be obvious:
- Theme park and amusement park attractions can be dangerous, even under “ideal” conditions.
- In many cases these dangers can be traced to defects in an attraction’s design, construction, or operation.
- It is in the parks’ best financial interests to keep such information out of the public eye and out of the hands of an accident victims’ attorneys.
While this post does not attempt to suggest that all theme park owners and/or operators are concealing information from the public, it is certainly possible that other parks have kept, or will keep, such information private in an effort to reduce the possibility that they could be held liable for an injury to a park patron. With the approach of summer and the vacation season, we will continue to monitor the news media for reports on theme park accidents as our contribution to protecting you and your family from unnecessary injuries and other such losses.
Our nationwide firm has more local offices than any other theme park personal injury / wrongful death practice in the United States. If you, or a family member, suffered an injury while attending such a venue, we would like to hear from you. Our initial consultation with you regarding your potential case is always free and does not obligate to retain our firm. Should you decide to ask us to represent you in your case, we will assume responsibility for all aspects (including financial) of your case in return for an agreed-upon percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.