Murder charges laid after killer waterslide decapitates boy

Two people have been charged with murder after the brutal decapitation of a young boy on a US waterslide.

Ten-year-old Caleb Schwab was killed while riding on the attraction at Kansas' Schlitterbahn waterpark two years ago.

Now, the state attorney-general's office has released indictments against those allegedly responsible.

Its designer, John Timothy Schooley, and the park's co-owner, Jeffery Henry face reckless second-degree murder charges.

Investigators say Henry decided to build the slide in a "spur-of-the-moment bid to impress producers of Travel Channel's Xtreme Waterparks series" - despite having no technical or engineering qualifications.

Henry and Schooley rushed the design process and "skipped fundamental steps in the design process. In place of mathematical and physics calculations, they rushed forward relying almost entirely on crude trial-and-error methods", court documents report.

The 17-story Verruckt ride was intended to be the world's tallest - and named after the German word for 'crazy' or 'insane'.

But there were already ominous signs revealed in emails the development team sent to each other.

"Verruckt could hurt me, it could kill me, it is a seriously dangerous piece of equipment today because there are things that we don't know about it," Henry wrote.

"Every day we learn more… I've seen what this one had done to the crash dummies and to the boats we sent down it. Ever since the prototype. And we had boats flying in the prototype too. It's complex, it's fast, it's mean. If we mess up, it could be the end. I could die going down this ride."

However he ploughed ahead to make the schedule. Once open, Henry was called a "visionary" after creating the slide - but the problems continued.

Some rafts would go airborne, smashing riders into the metal nets and hoops above the slide.

Prosecutors say they found evidence that the ride failed to meet standards and had injured at least 11 people before the fatality.

"Whistleblowers from within Schlitterbahn's own ranks came forward and revealed that Schlitterbahn officials had covered up similar incidents in the past," officials wrote in the indictments.

"Experts noted that Verruckt's design violated nearly all aspects of the longstanding industry safety standards.

"In fact, the design and operation of the Verruckt complied with few, if any, of the industry safety standards."

A spokesperson for Schlitterbahn disputes several issues in the indictment, calling the death an "unforeseeable accident".

"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 told The Washington Post.

"We put our guests and employees safety first; and safety and maintenance are at the top of our list of priorities."


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