THE world’s tallest waterslide, higher than Niagara Falls, was forced to shut after a chilling accident.
Located at the Schlitterbahn Kansas City water park, Verrückt was taller than Niagara Falls and Nelson’s Column – it shot riders down at 70mph.
Verrückt, which means “insane” in German, was installed in 2014 and the slide was 168ft high.
It attracted a lot of media coverage and was voted the world’s “Best New Waterpark Ride” at the 2014 Golden Ticket Awards.
The idea for Verrückt came from 63-year-old Jeff Henry, who co-owned the Schlitterbahn parks and acted as the company’s chief visionary, a conjurer of splashy joyrides.
Jeff was considered a genius in the water park business.
Author Tim O’Brien once wrote in his book: ” Jeff was an out-of-the-box visionary of waterpark designs.”
Jeff often used to say that his goal in life was to make Schlitterbahn customers happy and put a smile on their faces
In an interview, he once said: “I’m a water showman. That’s what I do.”
And Verrückt, a ride that lasted only eighteen seconds, was considered to be his crowning achievement.
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When the slide opened to the public, in July 2014, riders’ reviews were like a dream for the operators.
But things went upside down after a gruesome tragedy forced the iconic water slide to shut down.
On August 7, 2016, Caleb Schwab, the 10-year-old son of Kansas state representative Scott Schwab, died while riding Verrückt.
The raft he was riding went airborne during the ascent of the second hump and impacted the metal support of the netting, decapitating him on the spot.
Reportedly, Caleb, who weighed 74 pounds, had been allowed to sit in the front of the raft, rather than between the two women accompanying him who weighed more.
This created an uneven weight distribution, which some experts concluded may have contributed to the raft going airborne.
The two people with whom he was riding suffered minor injuries – one suffered a broken jaw, while the other suffered a facial bone fracture and needed stitches.
In the immediate aftermath, Schlitterbahn Kansas City was closed pending an inspection.
Although the park reopened three days later, the ride remained closed for the foreseeable future.
Speaking about the safety measures that were in place at the park, one former employee said: “The only inspections we’ve ever done is just people riding down slides one time, saying ‘Oh, it’s okay. You’re good to go for the rest of the day now.'”
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Tyler Miles, the operations manager of the park, had reportedly received 17 separate staff reports during the 2015 and 2016 summer seasons about how the raft in which Caleb was riding when he died required maintenance, including five in that week alone.
While Kansas City Park continues to operate, Verrückt has now been dismantled – making Kilimanjaro the tallest water slide again.
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