Testimony concludes in trial of workers in waterslide death
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Jurors on Thursday began deliberating the case of two Kansas water park maintenance workers accused of impeding the investigation into the death of a 10-year-old boy who was decapitated on a waterslide in August 2016.
David Hughes and John Zalsman are charged with obstruction of justice.
Caleb Schwab was killed as he rode the Verruckt slide at the Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City. The raft on which Caleb was riding went airborne as it went over a hump and slammed him into a metal pole that supported a net meant to keep riders from flying off the slide. Two women on the raft also were injured.
Prosecutors said Hughes and Zalsman failed to replace a brake mat that fell off the slide two weeks before Caleb was killed, then told investigators that the mat had only been on the slide during testing phases. Video evidence shows the mat was used after the ride opened to customers in 2014, prosecutors said.
The Verruckt rafts made a 17-story drop at speeds of up to 70 mph (110 kilometers per hour), followed by a surge over the hump and a 50 foot (15 meter) descent to a finishing pool. Jurors were told the brake mat was supposed to slow the rafts as they reached the top of the hump.
The defense said prosecutors didn't understand how the slide functioned and questioned the testimony of Jason Diaz, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent who interviewed the defendants. The defense also noted that another Schlitterbahn employee who made false statements to investigators wasn't charged. Diaz said he didn't believe the other employee had intentionally misled him.
Schlitterbahn has said officials have no reason to believe any employee obstructed justice.
The most serious charges in Caleb's death have been filed against one of Schlitterbahn's owners, Jeff Henry, Verruckt designer John Schooley and general contractor Henry & Sons Constructions. Each is charged with second-degree murder, aggravated battery and aggravated endangerment of a child. Another employee is charged with involuntary manslaughter. They have all pleaded not guilty.
The slide, which was billed as the world's tallest, was shut down after Caleb's was killed.