Judge dismisses charges over boy's death on water slide

4 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago Friday, February 22 2019 Feb 22, 2019 Friday, February 22, 2019 1:41:00 PM CST February 22, 2019 in Top Stories
By: The Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A judge dismissed criminal charges Friday against a Kansas water park owner and the designer of a 17-story slide on which a 10-year-old boy was decapitated in 2016.

Wyandotte County Judge Robert Burns cited improper evidence in dropping second-degree murder charges against Schlitterbahn owner Jeff Henry, designer John Schooley, and general contractor Henry and Sons Construction Co. The judge also dismissed an involuntary manslaughter charge against operations manager Tyler Miles, The Kansas City Star reported .

They were charged after Caleb Schwab died while riding the waterslide, which was marketed as the world's tallest slide.

"The court has grave doubts as to whether the irregularities and improprieties improperly influenced the grand jury and ultimately bolstered its decision to indict these defendants," Judge Robert Burns said. "Quite simply, these defendants were not afforded the due process protections and fundamental fairness Kansas law requires."

A spokesman for the Kansas Attorney General's Office, which prosecuted the case, didn't immediately return phone and email messages from The Associated Press.

Caleb was killed on the Verruckt — German for "crazy" — in 2016 when the raft he was riding went airborne and hit a metal pole. Two women who were with him in the raft were seriously injured. The slide never operated again and has been torn down .

While making his ruling, Burns noted the tragedy of Caleb's death.

"I obviously recognize that the circumstances and events giving rise to these indictments are indisputably tragic," Burns said. "A young child's life was lost and his troubling death was mourned by family, friends and the entire Kansas City community and beyond."

Schlitterbahn spokeswoman Winter Prosapio said in a statement, "We welcome today's decision which dismissed the charges against all defendants. We are thankful for all the support and encouragement we've received."

The evidence included video from a Travel Channel show documenting construction of the Verruckt, in which Henry and others emphasized the risks to riders on a raft dropping 17 stories before climbing a second, 50-foot (15.24-meter) hump. Defense attorneys argued the show was scripted for entertainment, showing flying boats. Defense attorneys argued the video didn't show how the ride actually worked, but the attorney general's office never told the jury it was a dramatization, though it showed boats flying up in a similar manner to how Caleb died.

The state argued that it was up to the jury to determine what was true and said the Travel Channel video should be presented at trial.

Defendants also claimed jurors repeatedly were told that the waterslide was not built to standards established by ASTM International, which might have led jurors to conclude the water park was breaking the law. But Kansas law didn't require the Verruckt meet those standards at the time of Caleb's death. The legislature toughened state law involving inspections and requirements after the boy died.

Lawyers also argued the grand jury shouldn't have heard testimony about another death at a Schlitterbahn park in Texas because it's not relevant to what happened here.

Caleb and his father, Scott Schwab, were at the park for a special day for state lawmakers. Schwab was elected Kansas secretary of state in November.

Caleb's family received nearly $20 million in settlements . The two women with Caleb on the raft settled for an undisclosed amount.

Schwab's office on Friday directed a request for comment to his family's attorney, Mike Rader, who did not immediately return a telephone message.

More News

Grid
List
(CNN) — Sydney Aiello, who survived the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, has died from... More >>
1 hour ago Saturday, March 23 2019 Mar 23, 2019 Saturday, March 23, 2019 4:45:00 PM CDT March 23, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA — The Boone County Fire Department is looking for a missing man in Columbia. 86-year-old Michael Smith disappeared around... More >>
1 hour ago Saturday, March 23 2019 Mar 23, 2019 Saturday, March 23, 2019 3:56:00 PM CDT March 23, 2019 in News
SUNRISE BEACH - The smell of fresh barbecue filled the air at the Bear Bottom Resort this afternoon. The community... More >>
2 hours ago Saturday, March 23 2019 Mar 23, 2019 Saturday, March 23, 2019 3:20:00 PM CDT March 23, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - A fire broke out at the intersection of Broadway and Old Highway 63 South. The fire was... More >>
2 hours ago Saturday, March 23 2019 Mar 23, 2019 Saturday, March 23, 2019 3:00:03 PM CDT March 23, 2019 in News
BOWLING GREEN — A student at Bowling Green High School died Friday after a car crash according to the... More >>
2 hours ago Saturday, March 23 2019 Mar 23, 2019 Saturday, March 23, 2019 2:55:12 PM CDT March 23, 2019 in News
AUDRAIN COUNTY - The Audrain County Sheriff's Office is searching for a man wanted on outstanding felony charges. In... More >>
5 hours ago Saturday, March 23 2019 Mar 23, 2019 Saturday, March 23, 2019 12:31:00 PM CDT March 23, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Columbia city leaders met in a closed meeting on Friday to propose ways to build relationships between the... More >>
23 hours ago Friday, March 22 2019 Mar 22, 2019 Friday, March 22, 2019 6:39:00 PM CDT March 22, 2019 in News
WASHINGTON (AP) — Special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday turned over his long-awaited final report on the contentious Russia... More >>
1 day ago Friday, March 22 2019 Mar 22, 2019 Friday, March 22, 2019 4:23:00 PM CDT March 22, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Parts of northwest Missouri are being evacuated following severe flooding throughout the day. Officials in St. Joseph... More >>
1 day ago Friday, March 22 2019 Mar 22, 2019 Friday, March 22, 2019 3:25:00 PM CDT March 22, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Two lawsuits for discrimination, filed against Columbia Public Schools and a former assistant superintendent, were dismissed Thursday. ... More >>
1 day ago Friday, March 22 2019 Mar 22, 2019 Friday, March 22, 2019 2:26:00 PM CDT March 22, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Police were investigating shots fired in the 1000 block of Elleta Blvd. An officer on scene said... More >>
1 day ago Friday, March 22 2019 Mar 22, 2019 Friday, March 22, 2019 1:48:00 PM CDT March 22, 2019 in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) — More towns are evacuating as the flooded Missouri River seeps over and through busted levees.... More >>
1 day ago Friday, March 22 2019 Mar 22, 2019 Friday, March 22, 2019 12:38:00 PM CDT March 22, 2019 in News
SALINE COUNTY - A Glasgow woman in jail for a probation violation died Thursday, according to a news release. ... More >>
1 day ago Friday, March 22 2019 Mar 22, 2019 Friday, March 22, 2019 11:59:00 AM CDT March 22, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Columbia Public Schools students will have school on the day after Memorial Day, a reversal from the previously... More >>
1 day ago Friday, March 22 2019 Mar 22, 2019 Friday, March 22, 2019 11:42:00 AM CDT March 22, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - A federal grand jury indicted the man accused of starting a fire at Planned Parenthood on new charges.... More >>
1 day ago Friday, March 22 2019 Mar 22, 2019 Friday, March 22, 2019 10:11:00 AM CDT March 22, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - An overnight fire at the ABB facility started in the building's exhaust system, according to a news... More >>
1 day ago Friday, March 22 2019 Mar 22, 2019 Friday, March 22, 2019 9:27:00 AM CDT March 22, 2019 in News
(CNN) - Farmers in parts of Nebraska and Iowa had precious little time to move themselves from the floodwaters that... More >>
1 day ago Friday, March 22 2019 Mar 22, 2019 Friday, March 22, 2019 5:37:00 AM CDT March 22, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - City leaders will meet Friday to try to find a solution to the recent spike in gun violence... More >>
1 day ago Friday, March 22 2019 Mar 22, 2019 Friday, March 22, 2019 5:30:00 AM CDT March 22, 2019 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 61°
6pm 59°
7pm 57°
8pm 54°
9pm 53°