The designer of a 17-story waterslide at a Kansas amusement park, once the tallest in the world, was arrested on Monday and charged with second-degree murder for the death of a 10-year-old boy who was decapitated on the ride in 2016. The charges were filed against the two designers of the Verrückt ride (translated as “insane” in German), including Schlitterbahn Waterpark owner Jeff Henry, after investigators uncovered shoddy design, a faulty safety record, and overall negligence in the rushed construction of the hybrid rollercoaster-waterslide.
Conceived in 2012 “in a spur-of-the-moment bid to impress producers of the Travel Channel’s Xtreme Waterparks series,” the 17-story Verrückt was guided from design to completion by Henry and [John] Schooley—neither of whom “possessed any kind of technical or engineering credential relevant to amusement ride design or safety,” the indictments say… “Verrückt suffered from a long list of dangerous design flaws; however, the most obvious and potentially lethal flaw was that Verrückt’s design guaranteed that rafts would occasionally go airborne in a manner that could severely injure or kill the occupants,” the indictments assert, alleging that video recordings depict even Henry and Schooley going airborne on a personal test run of the prototype.
Despite their lack of experience, the ride went live after just 20 months and the injuries began to pile up: 13 injuries, including two concussions and one case of temporary blindness. “On Verrückt, groups of riders first zoomed down a nearly vertical, 168-foot main descent. Then they ascended 50 feet above the ground, propelled by inertia and ‘a series of high-pressure water blasters,’ ” the Washington Post reported on the indictment. The problem was that riders would often go airborne when careening down the ride’s chute, exposing riders to dangerous looped metal poles overhead. In August 2016, that’s exactly what happened to the 10-year-old boy, who was thrown from his raft while riding with two older women and decapitated on a metal pole.