Schlitterbahn Water Park Co-Owner Charged in Boy’s Decapitation on World’s Largest Waterslide
The 10-year-old was killed in 2016, and co-owner Jeff Henry was arrested Monday on 12 counts of aggravated battery and five counts of aggravated child endangerment.
The co-owner of a Kansas City water park where a 10-year-old boy was decapitated during a family outing in 2016 was arrested Monday on a slew of charges related to the boy’s death.
Caleb Schwab, the baseball-obsessed son of Kansas State Rep. Scott Schwab, died in an accident on Schlitterbahn’s 17-story Verruckt waterslide, at the time billed as the world’s tallest.
Schwab’s raft flew off the slide and hit a metal pole attached to a safety net, decapitating him. Two other women on the raft were seriously injured, and the incident has since been under investigation by the Kansas Attorney General’s Office.
Jeffrey Wayne Henry, 62, was arrested in Cameron County, Texas, on 12 counts of aggravated battery and five counts of aggravated child endangerment, an online database shows. He remained in jail Tuesday morning.
Henry opened the first Schlitterbahn park with his siblings in New Braunfels, Texas, in the late 1970s. The park—a popular summer pastime in the Lone Star State—has locations in Texas, Florida, and Kansas City, Kansas.
A 47-page grand jury indictment, which was unsealed Friday and first obtained by the Kansas City Star, alleges that Henry did not have the technical expertise needed to build an attraction as ambitious as the Verruckt slide and that he ignored safety warnings from expert consultants.
Schwab’s death “appeared at first to be an isolated and unforeseeable incident, until whistleblowers from within Schlitterbahn’s own ranks came forward and revealed” that park officials “had covered up similar incidents in the past,” the indictment alleges.
“Experts noted that Verruckt’s design violated nearly all aspects of the longstanding industry safety standards,” the document states. “Corporate emails, memoranda, blueprints, video recordings, photographs, and eyewitness statements revealed that this child’s death and the rapidly growing list of injuries were foreseeable and expected outcomes.”
“Verruckt’s designers and operators knew that Verruckt posed a substantial and unjustifiable risk of death or severe bodily harm,” the indictment states.
Cameron County officials told the Star that Henry was arrested by U.S. Marshals on a Kansas warrant. The Schlitterbahn corporate parent and its former director of operations, Tyler Austin Miles, were indicted last week on a slew of charges, including involuntary manslaughter, aggravated endangerment of a child, and aggravated battery, the Star reported. (Miles has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyers have denied the allegations, noting that Miles himself had “ridden the slide numerous times” and that he scheduled his own wife to ride it on the day of Schwab’s death, proving that he had no knowledge of its danger to the public.)
Schlitterbahn spokeswoman Winter Prosapio told the Star the company 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.”
Prosapio added that the “secret” grand jury “never heard one word from us directly, nor were we allowed to provide contradictory evidence. And we have plenty.”