Long push to regulate amusement rides stalled

Tragedy led to Kansas lawmakers' action

TOPEKA, Kan. — 10-year-old Caleb Schwab went to Schlitterbahn Water Park in August 2016 expecting to have fun.

Instead, his short life tragically ended on the massive Verruckt water slide.

"It was the son of a legislator as opposed to the son or daughter of someone else," said State Rep. Tom Sloan of Lawrence.

Sloan believes because Caleb was the son of fellow lawmaker Scott Schwab, the previously lightly-regulated amusement ride industry drew new scrutiny in Kansas.

A new law requires an annual inspection for rides by one of several national boards.

"You need to have someone on the outside, not the operator, actually inspecting on a regular basis," Sloan said.

Sloan began calling for those inspections nearly 20 years ago.

But bills he submitted in 1999 and 2001 went nowhere.

In 2007, about a year and a half before Schlitterbahn Park opened in Kansas City, Kansas and long before Verruckt was built, minutes of a committee meeting show the company's lobbyist told lawmakers "he did not foresee any problems".

He also said the company could regulate itself and it ultimately did, which Sloan said was a mistake.

He believes Kansas still needs more inspections and inspectors or rides.

"I hope that it doesn't take another fatality to get us to that point," Sloan said.

The 41 Action News Investigators contacted Schlitterbahn's lobbyist.

He declined to comment and referred us to a Schlitterbahn spokeswoman who has also not commented.

However, the company has previously released multiple statements denying any wrongdoing.

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