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Kansas park owner arrested over boy's water slide death

By Sommer Brokaw
Kansas park owner arrested over boy's water slide death
Schlitterbahn park co-owner Jeffrey Henry was arrested and charged in the 2016 death of a boy at his park, officials said. Photo courtesy Cameron County, Texas

March 27 (UPI) -- A co-owner of Kansas' Schlitterbahn Waterpark was arrested and charged criminally in the 2016 death of a 10-year-old boy at the park.

Police arrested Jeff Henry in Texas Monday, park spokeswoman Winter Prosapio said. Henry faces criminal charges that include aggravated battery and aggravated endangerment of a child, according to the county's website.

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Caleb Schwab, the son of Republican Kansas state Rep. Scott Schwab, received a serious neck injury after riding a slide called the Verruckt -- which, at more than 168 feet, is billed as the world's tallest water slide.

Although the boy's death was first treated as an accident, whistleblowers have since divulged details about the park's history. A grand jury last week indicted the park's former director of operations, Tyler Miles, and the park itself in the boy's death.

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The grand jury accused Miles and other executives of ignoring design flaws and industry safety standards during the slide's construction. Miles was booked Friday and released after posting a $50,000 bond.

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Miles' indictment described improper behavior from Henry and ride designer John Schooley.

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"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," the indictment said. "Henry, Schooley, and Miles all knew about this problem before the ride opened to the public."

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Henry is not named in the indictment against Miles, but he is shown as "the principal design and visionary" of the Verruckt slide. The indictment also noted that Henry possessed no "technical or engineering credentials," but that he controlled "many key decisions" in the ride's design.

"We as a company and as a family will fight these allegations and have confidence that once the facts are presented it will be clear that what happened on the ride was an unforeseeable accident," the park said in a statement.

Schlitterbahn also operates four other water parks, in Texas.

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