Schlitterbahn, former executive indicted after child’s death on - KCTV5 News

Schlitterbahn, former executive indicted after child’s death on waterslide

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Tyler Miles. (KCTV) Tyler Miles. (KCTV)
KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) -

Airborne rafts and failing brakes. Those are two major safety flaws that investigators say Schlitterbahn’s owner and operations manager ignored, ultimately ending in a young boy’s death.

Ten-year-old Caleb Schwab was killed on August 7, 2016 after his raft went airborne on the Verruckt waterslide, forcing him to hit a metal bar and netting on the ride.

A grand jury indicted the Schlitterbahn corporation and its former Director of Operations, Tyler Austin Miles, with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated endangering a child, aggravated battery and interfering with law enforcement.

The 47-page indictment accuses those in charge of operating Verruckt of knowing the ride was not safe. It said they allowed customers to use it even though they knew someone could be killed or seriously hurt.

Experts and investigators say the second hill on the waterslide was the most dangerous part of its design.

According to the indictment, “The presence of the overhead netting and support hoops speaks volumes about the designer’s extreme disregard for the value of human life.”

Investigators added that co-owner Jeff Henry and lead designer John Schooley installed metal bars directly across the known flight path for airborne rafts.

KCTV5 news spoke to an engineer in 2016 who said he tried to warn Schlitterbahn about dangerous design flaws.

“I was really surprised that it took this long before somebody got killed,” said Stan Demster, a professional engineer. “I have identified at least 10 very serious defects in the design of this thing that pretty well establishes that no engineer designed this ride.”

Investigators said the design guaranteed rafts would occasionally go airborne.

Schooley and Miles logged airborne rafts on June 25, July 6, and July 7 in 2014. One day later, Schooley signed a commissioning document certifying; “this ride is safe, operational and ready for public use.”

Court records show eleven people were injured on the waterslide before Caleb's death which included a concussion, slipped spinal disks, whiplash, and broken toes.

Investigators believe Tyler Austin Miles worked to conceal information about those injuries. They said Miles signed one victim’s incident report then disappeared. It appears to be missing from records. Miles is accused of destroying witnesses’ statements then forcing lifeguards to write coached statements.

According to court records, Miles also ignored multiple inspections and written reports that said the waterslide’s brake system was in the process of failure leading up to Caleb’s death. As the brake system deteriorated, raft speeds increased and rafts went airborne with greater frequency. Twenty-three days before Caleb’s death, a seasonal manager flagged the brake system on Verruckt as an Urgent Priority Level One issue. Investigators said Miles chose to keep operating it until Caleb’s death.

According to the indictment, Miles withheld thousands of written ops daily reports containing incriminating information and caused the investigation to be delayed by six months.

Related coverage:

Grand jury indicts Schlitterbahn, former executive after death on Kansas City, KS water slide

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