Possible changes coming to Kansas amusement parks after Schlitterbahn tragedy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Big changes could be coming to amusement parks and rides across Kansas following the tragic death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab last August on the Verruckt water slide at Schlitterbahn.

House Bill 2389, currently being discussed by the Committee on Federal and State Affairs in the Kansas House, aims to change rules for inspections and who does them.

Among the changes, the bill would require the parks' insurance companies to hire experienced engineers to inspect rides that can now be inspected privately.

On Wednesday, ride operator Zach Wilson spoke with 41 Action News about the bill.

"Some of it is really good," said Wilson, who runs Fun Services in Shawnee. "Some of it will be tough to abide by."

Wilson said the bill's proposal calling on temporary rides across the state, like the ones at special events and carnivals, to be inspected every time they are constructed could lead to issues.

"We work lots of different hours, lots of different locations," he explained.  "We do after grad parties and after-prom parties. I'm not sure inspectors are going to want to come out at midnight and inspect rides at one o'clock in the morning."

Caleb Schwab

Wilson also pointed to issues with the costs associated with the inspections.

According to the bill, each inspection permit for a permanent amusement park ride would cost $840, while inspection permits for temporary rides would cost $100.

Wilson told 41 Action News that if amusement parks have to continually pay the fees, people who visit the attractions could eventually see a financial impact.

"I think your ticket prices could go up if those current proposals for those inspection costs are left in place," he said.

Amusement park rules and regulations in Kansas were thrust into the spotlight following last year's deadly accident at Schlitterbahn.

Across the country, Kansas is known for having some of the lightest regulations compared to other states.

In 2008, state leaders passed many of the regulations still in place today.

Permanent amusement park rides are subject to annual inspections and random state audits of the inspection records.

However, the inspections can be done by private inspectors, not state officers.

With House Bill 2389, Wilson said Kansas could become more in line with other states.

"The current laws in Kansas are very lax," he explained. "They just require you to have an inspection record on file."

State leaders continue to work on House Bill 2389.

State Representative John Barker (R-Dickinson Co.) says hearings will be held on the bill next Thursday and Friday.

Wilson told 41 Action News that he will testify in the hearings and offer his input on the bill.

Schlitterbahn opens for a new season on May 26th.

Staff say the Verruckt water slide will be torn down once the investigation into Schwab's death is complete.

EXTENDED COVERAGE:

Settlement reached between Caleb Schwab's family and Schlitterbahn 

Independent investigators examine Verruckt one month after Caleb Schwab's death

Family, friends and community honor 10-year-old Caleb Schwab 

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