The Schlitterbahn Vacation Village in Kansas City, Kansas allegedly covered up more than a dozen dangerous incidents involving the Verrückt waterpark ride prior to the fatal incident that claimed Caleb Schwab’s life In 2016. When a dangerous amusement park ride causes serious injuries or death, the ride’s designers, manufacturers, and operators may be held accountable.
Caleb Schwab was decapitated on the waterslide after his raft flew into the air and struck a metal pole. Two women were also seriously injured in the incident. The ride’s designer, the park’s co-owner, and a company involved in the construction of the slide were named as defendants in 18 charges including reckless second-degree murder, aggravated battery, and aggravated endangerment of a child.
Covering Up Clear and Present Dangers
The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that about 30,900 amusement park injuries were treated in emergency rooms in 2016. Due to a patchwork system of regulation, reporting, and enforcement, however, it is difficult to get a clear picture of the actual number of injuries that occur. And when parks like Schlitterbahn take measures to hide the dangerous incidents that happen, the risk for serious injuries and fatalities soars.
At least 13 people were injured on the Verrückt in the 182 days of the ride’s operation before Schwab’s death. Injuries included concussions, lacerations, spinal injuries, neck injuries and broken bones. Sources report that the park’s management knew of the incidents, but took measures to cover them up. Since amusement parks and water parks in many states are not required to report injuries unless they result in fatalities or hospitalization, dangerous rides are often left in operation while serious injuries are swept under the rug.
Amusement Park Liability
Amusement park owners, designers of rides, builders, maintenance personnel, and others involved in the construction, operation, and maintenance of amusement park rides can be held liable when their negligent actions lead to personal injuries or wrongful death. These individuals and entities are responsible for ensuring that guests enjoy a reasonable amount of safety when visiting the theme park. When they knowingly place the safety of patrons in danger, victims may be able to recover punitive damages in addition to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.