The former operations manager of a Kansas City waterpark has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 10-year-old who died on a water slide in 2016. Photo by Wyandotte County Detention Center
March 24 (UPI) -- The resort company Schlitterbahn and former operations manager of the corporation's Kansas City water park, Tyler Miles, have been indicted for involuntary manslaughter in the death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab, who was killed while riding the park's Verruckt water slide in 2016.
The indictment, returned by a grand jury in Wyandotte County on Friday, accuses Miles and other Schlitterbahn executives of ignoring design flaws and flouting amusement park industry safety standards while rushing to complete the construction of what was billed as the world's tallest water slide.
In 2016, Caleb, the son of Republican Kansas state Rep. Scott Schwab, was found dead in a pool at the end of the ride. An autopsy revealed Caleb suffered a fatal neck injury while riding the water slide, a ride that featured rafts plunging down a steep decline.
The death was initially determined to be an isolated accident, but whistleblowers revealed the resort company had worked to coverup previous injuries.
Though Miles is the only executive facing charges, the indictment describes improper behavior by both co-owner Jeff Henry and Verruckt designer John Schooley.
"Verruckt suffered from a long list of dangerous design flaws; however, the most obvious and potentially lethal flaw was that Verruckt's design guaranteed that rafts would occasionally go airborne in a manner that could severely injure or kill the occupants," according to the indictment. "Henry, Schooley, and Miles all knew about this problem before the ride opened to the public."
In the wake of Caleb Schwab's death, Schlitterbahn settled lawsuits with a number of people injured while riding Verruckt. But additional penalties could be forthcoming, including prison time for its former operations manager.
Miles was booked into the Wyandotte County Jail on Friday morning, but was released shortly after posting $50,000 bond. If convicted, the 29-year-old could face anywhere from 31 months to 136 months in prison. A jury trial is scheduled to begin in September.
Schlitterbahn denied wrongdoing in a statement sent to UPI.
"Since the date of the incident we have worked closely with law enforcement; at no time have we withheld evidence; at no time have we altered evidence," the company said in an email. "The indictment uses quoted statements from a reality TV show that was scripted for dramatic effect that in no way reflects the design and construction of the ride."
Lawyers representing Miles also said the charges against their client are false.
"Not only had Tyler ridden the slide numerous times, but, as the State is aware, he had scheduled his wife, to ride it on the day of the accident," attorneys Tom and Tricia Bath said in a statement. "These are not the actions of someone who believed the ride to be dangerous."
Both Schlitterbahn and Miles' representative claimed neither Miles nor his colleagues attempted to cover up evidence, and that both worked cooperatively with law enforcement in the wake of the accident.