A water park operator and an executive have been indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the 2016 death of a 10-year-old boy at Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City, PEOPLE confirms.
The indictment alleges that Schlitterbahn Water Park of Kansas City, as well as the former director of operations Tyler Austin Miles, rushed into operation the 17-story Verrückt waterslide when they knew the ride was dangerous and would go airborne more often than the other rafts.
The ride was allegedly built in 2012 “in a spur of the moment bid” to impress the producers of a Travel Channel show, according to the indictment obtained by PEOPLE.
Caleb Schwab, the son of Kansas lawmaker Scott Schwab, was decapitated on August 7, 2016, when the raft he was on went airborne and collided with the overhead netting attached to the waterside.
Schwab was with his family at the park during an event for elected officials when the tragedy occurred.
Two adult women were also injured in the tragedy.
Winter D. Prosapio, a spokesperson for Schlitterbahn, said the company was “shocked” by the allegations against Miles and the Kansas City park.
“The allegation that we operated, and failed to maintain, a ride that could foreseeably cause such a tragic accident is beyond the pale of speculation,” she said in a statement. “Many of us, and our children and grandchildren, have ridden the ride with complete confidence as to its safety. Our operational mantra has been and will forever be Safety First …We have operated with integrity from day one at the waterpark – as we do throughout our waterparks and resorts. We put our guests and employees safety first, and safety and maintenance are at the top of our list of priorities.”
Miles’ attorneys Tom and Tricia Bath said that law enforcement’s assertion that Schwab’s death was “foreseeable to Tyler Mills” was not true.
“Not only had Tyler ridden the slide numerous times, but, as the State is aware, he had scheduled his wife, to ride it on the day of the accident,” attorneys Tom and Tricia Bath said in a statement. “These are not the actions of someone who believed the ride to be dangerous.”
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The incident was initially thought of as an “isolated and unforeseeable incident” until whistleblowers from Schlitterbahn revealed that Schlitterbahn officials had covered up as many as 13 incidents in the past.
Those incidents included a 15-year-old girl whose head was slammed sideways against her headrest, which caused her to temporarily go blind.
“Experts in the field of amusement ride design and safety examined Verrückt and found physical evidence which indicated that other rafts had gone airborne and collided with the overhead hoops and netting before the fatality,” according to the indictment.
The experts also noted that the raft “violated nearly all aspects of the longstanding industry safety standards” and “suffered from a long list of dangerous design flaws.”
The 19-month investigation uncovered evidence, including corporate emails and eyewitness statements, that found “the child’s death and the rapidly growing list of injuries were foreseeable and expected outcomes,” the indictment states.
Jeff Henry, Verrückt creator and Schlitterbahn co-owner, praised the ride ahead of its opening and warned that Verrückt isn’t a “family ride.”
“It’s dangerous, but it’s a safe dangerous now,” Henry told USA Today. “Schlitterbahn is a family water park, but this isn’t a family ride. It’s for the thrill seekers of the world, people into extreme adventure.”
The Verrückt (German for “crazy” or “insane”) was named the world’s tallest water slide by Guinness World Records in 2014. The raft allegedly hit speeds of up to 70 mph.
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In addition, Miles was indicted on two counts of interference with law enforcement. Schlitterbahn was also charged with one count of interference with law enforcement.
Miles pleaded not guilty Friday and turned himself into the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Office.
A trial has been scheduled for Sep. 10.
Caleb’s family reached a $20 million settlement with Schlitterbahn and affiliated companies, according to the Associated Press.