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US waterslide on which boy was decapitated to be demolished

Published 23/11/2016

The Verruckt waterslide will be demolished (AP/Charlie Riedel)
The Verruckt waterslide will be demolished (AP/Charlie Riedel)

A 168ft (51m) tall waterslide on which a US politician's 10-year-old son was killed is to be demolished once the inquiry into the tragedy has finished, the water park's operators have said.

Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts and the family that runs the company said in a statement that the Verruckt ride at the Schlitterbahn park in Kansas City, Kansas, will be permanently removed from its tower "once the investigation is concluded and we are given permission by the court".

"In our opinion, it is the only proper course of action following this tragedy," the statement read, adding that "all of us at Schlitterbahn have been heartbroken over the tragedy that occurred on Verruckt".

The ride - billed as the world's tallest waterslide - has been closed since Caleb Thomas Schwab died during one of its runs on Sunday August 7.

The youngster was decapitated in the accident, a person familiar with the investigation previously told the Associated Press.

Two other riders in the raft, both women, were injured.

Lawyers for Caleb - son of Republican state representative Scott Schwab - and the women are independently investigating the accident. No charges or lawsuits have yet been filed.

Verruckt - German for "insane" - featured multi-person rafts which make a 17-storey drop at speeds of up to 70mph, followed by a surge up a hump and a 50ft (15m) descent to a finishing pool.

Riders, who were required to be at least 4ft 6in (137cm) tall, were harnessed with two nylon seatbelt-like straps - one crossing the rider's lap and the other stretching diagonally like a car shoulder seatbelt. Each strap was held in place by long straps that closed with fabric fasteners, not buckles. Riders held ropes inside the raft.

Riders were weighed to ensure each raft carried between 400lb (181kg) and 550lb (249kg).

States' regulations of waterslides and other amusement rides have faced scrutiny following Caleb's death. Kansas is known for its light regulation of amusement park rides, and the Texas-based company that operates Schlitterbahn lobbied legislators to help ensure that it remained responsible for its own inspections.

Kansas mandates annual inspections of permanent amusement park rides but allows private inspectors to do the checks, rather than requiring a state inspection. A document released by the state Department of Labour after Caleb's death showed that all of Schlitterbahn's rides passed private inspections in June.

Lynn Johnson, a lawyer for the women injured in the same raft as Caleb, said in August that his clients "want answers and assurances from Schlitterbahn that that slide will be corrected or not continue to be in operation".

"If necessary, there will be litigation," he said then.

Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts said in its statement on Tuesday that it has been co-operating with investigators and the victims' families and lawyers, noting that "the safety of our staff and our guests is our top priority".

"In our 50 years of providing an environment for families and friends to gather," the statement read, "we've never experienced this kind of devastating event."

AP

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