Schlitterbahn trial focuses on faulty brake mat in first day

Posted at 6:17 PM, Oct 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-16 19:17:57-04

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A jury on Tuesday heard opening statements and witness testimony in the trial against two former Schlitterbahn Waterpark employees who are charged with giving false information to investigators.

The allegations center on a brake mat that was apparently missing from the Verruckt water slide the day 10-year-old Caleb Schwab died in August 2016.

Investigators said David Hughes and John Zalsman told them the brake mat was only used during the testing phase of the slide.

However, investigators found the brake mat was on the slide after it opened to the public.

Kansas City, Kansas Police Det. Jason Sutton testified that he was called to the scene shortly after Caleb's death.

He said video obtained by someone at the park captured the moment Caleb's raft went airborne, adding that the boy's raft got from "point A to point B" quicker than the other rafts.

However, no evidence was presented that indicates the missing brake mat was the reason Caleb's raft seemed to be moving at an accelerated speed. 

Sutton was asked by prosecutors to read from several daily operations reports that were filled out by Schlitterbahn employees since 2015. Each morning, the staff would conduct test runs on the rides and fill out the reports.

On several occasions, employees documented that there were issues with the Verruckt's brake mat on the second hill. It was noted, on multiple days, that the brake mat fell off.

While the reports were signed off by a manager, it was not clear if maintenance was notified each time to fix the problem.

Hughes was the maintenance supervisor at Schlitterbahn. He also helped build the Verruckt.

Zalsman was the senior maintenance technician at the park.


The attorneys for Hughes and Zalsman said several other employees were questioned about the brake mat following Caleb's death.

The defense said that those employees often did not recall accurate details about the issues with the brake mat.

The defense said that while the other employees also misspoke, only Hughes and Zalsman were accused of giving false information to investigators.

The trial will continue at 9 a.m. Wednesday.