Judge dismisses charges over boy's death on water slide

1 month 3 weeks 5 days 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
JEFFERSON CITY - Children from the Jefferson City and Columbia area showed off their businesses during the Jefferson City Children's... More >>
2 hours ago Saturday, April 20 2019 Apr 20, 2019 Saturday, April 20, 2019 5:17:00 PM CDT April 20, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - The Columbia Parks and Recreation department held its annual "EGGstravaganza Egg Hunt" at Douglass Parks on Saturday afternoon.... More >>
4 hours ago Saturday, April 20 2019 Apr 20, 2019 Saturday, April 20, 2019 3:02:00 PM CDT April 20, 2019 in News
MOBERLY- The Moberly Police Department arrested a man on Friday afternoon after they received information from the FBI in Omaha,... More >>
9 hours ago Saturday, April 20 2019 Apr 20, 2019 Saturday, April 20, 2019 10:08:00 AM CDT April 20, 2019 in News
CALLAWAY COUNTY - A Fulton man will be in jail for the next 25 years after he pleaded guilty Friday... More >>
10 hours ago Saturday, April 20 2019 Apr 20, 2019 Saturday, April 20, 2019 8:47:00 AM CDT April 20, 2019 in News
GASCONADE COUNTY - The sex of human remains found in the Gasconade River have been identified as male, according to... More >>
23 hours ago Friday, April 19 2019 Apr 19, 2019 Friday, April 19, 2019 8:09:00 PM CDT April 19, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Sophomore forward Jontay Porter officially declared for the 2019 NBA Draft via Twitter Friday. pic.twitter.com/AHj67OWmqi... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 19 2019 Apr 19, 2019 Friday, April 19, 2019 6:35:00 PM CDT April 19, 2019 in Sports
ROCHEPORT - Missouri State Parks said a tunnel on the Katy Trail will be closed for at least another month,... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 19 2019 Apr 19, 2019 Friday, April 19, 2019 6:32:00 PM CDT April 19, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA — High winds caused two power outages Friday evening that affected more than 1,500 customers, Columbia Water & Light... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 19 2019 Apr 19, 2019 Friday, April 19, 2019 6:23:00 PM CDT April 19, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA — The Missouri Secretary of State’s office awarded a “Spotlight on Literacy” grant to Daniel Boone Regional Library for... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 19 2019 Apr 19, 2019 Friday, April 19, 2019 5:46:00 PM CDT April 19, 2019 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A well-known radio personality in St. Louis is facing sex-related charges. ... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 19 2019 Apr 19, 2019 Friday, April 19, 2019 4:52:00 PM CDT April 19, 2019 in News
FULTON — A building on the Missouri School for the Deaf's campus may become the new location of a county... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 19 2019 Apr 19, 2019 Friday, April 19, 2019 3:44:00 PM CDT April 19, 2019 in News
BOONE COUNTY - Boone County Office of Emergency Management apologized Friday after accidentally sending out numerous severe weather alerts from... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 19 2019 Apr 19, 2019 Friday, April 19, 2019 3:03:00 PM CDT April 19, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Attorney Stephen Wyse wants Governor Mike Parson to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the relationship and alliance... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 19 2019 Apr 19, 2019 Friday, April 19, 2019 2:39:00 PM CDT April 19, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - The Columbia Board of Education approved a new compensation plan at Thursday's regular work session. The board voted... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 19 2019 Apr 19, 2019 Friday, April 19, 2019 2:38:00 PM CDT April 19, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - With April 20, or 4/20, falling on a weekend this year, the Missouri State Highway Patrol is preparing... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 19 2019 Apr 19, 2019 Friday, April 19, 2019 1:56:00 PM CDT April 19, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri's House speaker said he doesn't plan on taking further action to discipline a House member... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 19 2019 Apr 19, 2019 Friday, April 19, 2019 1:16:25 PM CDT April 19, 2019 in News
FARMINGTON (AP) — The wife of a Missouri Ku Klux Klan leader admitted Friday to fatally shooting her husband. ... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 19 2019 Apr 19, 2019 Friday, April 19, 2019 12:48:00 PM CDT April 19, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - The University of Missouri and Chancellor Alexander Cartwright released the fiscal budget for 2020, including a reallocation of... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 19 2019 Apr 19, 2019 Friday, April 19, 2019 12:43:00 PM CDT April 19, 2019 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 66°
8pm 65°
9pm 62°
10pm 58°
11pm 57°