Schlitterbahn maintenance workers charged with obstruction of justice in Verrückt death

Posted at 11:23 AM, May 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-30 19:24:48-04

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Two Schlitterbahn maintenance workers have been indicted in connection with the 2016 death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab, who died while riding the Verrückt water slide.

David Hughes, a maintenance supervisor, and John Zalsman, a maintenance employee are each charged with a single count of interference with law enforcement-obstruction official duty.

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Zalsman and Hughes are charged along with Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeff Henry, Verrückt co-designer John Schooley and park manager Tyler Miles.

In their first court appearance, both Hughes and Zalsman entered not guilty pleas. Both men are free after posting $10,000 bonds each.

Neither man nor their attorneys offered much comment after the court hearing.

Only Hughes, when asked if he obstructed justice, answered no.

Court records state Hughes, Zalsman and another Schlitterbahn employee, Willard Kampmeier, were responsible for the Verruckt water slide's construction, repair and maintenance.

Specifically, court records said investigators wanted to know why one of three brake mats on the slide, the one on hill two, had not been repaired after it fell off July 28, 2016.

Brake mats were put on the slide to slow passenger rafts down.

Records say hill two is typically where passenger rafts would go airborne.

The indictment says Hughes, Kampmeier and Zalsman each told investigators no brake mat was ever on hill two after Verruckt opened to the public.

But investigators then showed Kampmeier a screenshot from a guest's camera in June 2016 showing the brake mat on hill two weeks before it fell off.

Confronted with that evidence, court records say Kampmeier then changed his story.

He then told investigators Miles and Hughes were responsible for telling the maintenance crews to make repairs.

But court records claim the brake mat on hill two was never repaired or replaced after it fell off.

Then less then two weeks after the mat fell off, 10-year-old Caleb Schwab died on Verruckt.

Now, both Zalsman and Hughes are charged with knowingly giving false information to investigators to obstruct the investigation of a felony.

On the same day a grand jury indicted Hughes and Zalsman, there was a correction of a clerical error.

A 19 count felony indictment against Schlitterbahn was changed to charge KC Waterpark Management, LLC doing business as Schlitterbahn Waterpark of Kansas City, Kansas.

If the company is found guilty on those charges, which include 12 counts of aggravated battery, five counts of aggravated endangering of a child, and one count each of involuntary manslaughter and interference with law enforcement, the company faces a maximum of $4.5 million in fines.