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Officials: Kansas boy killed on world's tallest water slide died from neck injury

"Every death is technically a criminal matter until we clear it," Kansas City police spokesman Cameron Morgan said.

By Andrew V. Pestano and Doug G. Ware
Officials: Kansas boy killed on world's tallest water slide died from neck injury
Caleb Thomas Schwab, 10, died Sunday while riding the world's tallest water slide -- the Verrückt -- in Kansas City's Schlitterbahn water park. Police on Monday said Caleb died from a neck injury. Photo courtesy of Schlitterbahn

KANSAS CITY, Kan., Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Authorities say a 10-year-old boy who was killed earlier this week on a water slide in Kansas, believed to be the world's tallest, received a severe neck injury during the incident.

Police and firefighters found Caleb Thomas Schwab dead at a pool at the end of the ride on Sunday, police said. The boy was the son of Republican Kansas state Rep. Scott Schwab.

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Authorities still aren't certain of the circumstances that surrounded the accident, but police officials said Monday night that a neck injury directly led to his death.

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Schwab was riding the slide with two other women, who officials say were not related to him. They received minor facial injuries from the incident.

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Swimmers who ride the slide are strapped to a multi-person raft with a safety harness before it plunges 17 stories, and quickly climbs back up a roller coaster-style hill before dropping another 50 feet on the other side.

Additionally, the boy may not have met the ride's minimum height requirement of 54 inches. An age requirement of 14 years was waived shortly after the ride opened in 2012, though the height mandate remained intact.

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The water slide takes riders nearly 170 feet off the ground at its highest point. German for "insane," the Verrückt is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest water slide on Earth.

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Park officials said the park, which has been closed since Sunday, will reopen on Wednesday.

While it appears the boy's death was an accident, police said they must examine it as a crime until the evidence indicates otherwise.

"It is a death investigation. Every death is technically a criminal matter until we clear it or categorized it as an accident," Kansas City police spokesman Cameron Morgan said. "We are still investigating it and trying to figure it out what happened."

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"Since the day he was born, he brought abundant joy to our family and all those who he came into contact with," the boy's parents said in a statement. "As we try and mend our home with him no longer with us, we are comforted knowing he believed in his savior, Jesus, and they are forever together now. We will see him another day."

Amusement and water parks have not been fully regulated since 1981, when federal lawmakers dropped the requirement as part of government-wide deregulations intended to cut spending. For eight years before that, permanent rides at parks were regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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