Judge dismisses charges over boy's death on water slide

1 year 3 months 3 days ago Friday, February 22 2019 Feb 22, 2019 Friday, February 22, 2019 1:41:00 PM CST February 22, 2019 in Top Stories
By: The Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A judge dismissed criminal charges Friday against a Kansas water park owner and the designer of a 17-story slide on which a 10-year-old boy was decapitated in 2016.

Wyandotte County Judge Robert Burns cited improper evidence in dropping second-degree murder charges against Schlitterbahn owner Jeff Henry, designer John Schooley, and general contractor Henry and Sons Construction Co. The judge also dismissed an involuntary manslaughter charge against operations manager Tyler Miles, The Kansas City Star reported .

They were charged after Caleb Schwab died while riding the waterslide, which was marketed as the world's tallest slide.

"The court has grave doubts as to whether the irregularities and improprieties improperly influenced the grand jury and ultimately bolstered its decision to indict these defendants," Judge Robert Burns said. "Quite simply, these defendants were not afforded the due process protections and fundamental fairness Kansas law requires."

A spokesman for the Kansas Attorney General's Office, which prosecuted the case, didn't immediately return phone and email messages from The Associated Press.

Caleb was killed on the Verruckt — German for "crazy" — in 2016 when the raft he was riding went airborne and hit a metal pole. Two women who were with him in the raft were seriously injured. The slide never operated again and has been torn down .

While making his ruling, Burns noted the tragedy of Caleb's death.

"I obviously recognize that the circumstances and events giving rise to these indictments are indisputably tragic," Burns said. "A young child's life was lost and his troubling death was mourned by family, friends and the entire Kansas City community and beyond."

Schlitterbahn spokeswoman Winter Prosapio said in a statement, "We welcome today's decision which dismissed the charges against all defendants. We are thankful for all the support and encouragement we've received."

The evidence included video from a Travel Channel show documenting construction of the Verruckt, in which Henry and others emphasized the risks to riders on a raft dropping 17 stories before climbing a second, 50-foot (15.24-meter) hump. Defense attorneys argued the show was scripted for entertainment, showing flying boats. Defense attorneys argued the video didn't show how the ride actually worked, but the attorney general's office never told the jury it was a dramatization, though it showed boats flying up in a similar manner to how Caleb died.

The state argued that it was up to the jury to determine what was true and said the Travel Channel video should be presented at trial.

Defendants also claimed jurors repeatedly were told that the waterslide was not built to standards established by ASTM International, which might have led jurors to conclude the water park was breaking the law. But Kansas law didn't require the Verruckt meet those standards at the time of Caleb's death. The legislature toughened state law involving inspections and requirements after the boy died.

Lawyers also argued the grand jury shouldn't have heard testimony about another death at a Schlitterbahn park in Texas because it's not relevant to what happened here.

Caleb and his father, Scott Schwab, were at the park for a special day for state lawmakers. Schwab was elected Kansas secretary of state in November.

Caleb's family received nearly $20 million in settlements . The two women with Caleb on the raft settled for an undisclosed amount.

Schwab's office on Friday directed a request for comment to his family's attorney, Mike Rader, who did not immediately return a telephone message.

More News

Grid
List
COLUMBIA - The city of Columbia will not be collecting residential recycling curbside the week of May 25 after Columbia/Boone... More >>
1 hour ago Wednesday, May 27 2020 May 27, 2020 Wednesday, May 27, 2020 6:33:00 PM CDT May 27, 2020 in News
FULTON - Three people were arrested on drug charges after a narcotics search occurred at 1504 Monroe Street in Fulton.... More >>
1 hour ago Wednesday, May 27 2020 May 27, 2020 Wednesday, May 27, 2020 6:31:16 PM CDT May 27, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - At his daily COVID-19 press briefing, Governor Mike Parson announced that Missouri has so far been exceeding... More >>
3 hours ago Wednesday, May 27 2020 May 27, 2020 Wednesday, May 27, 2020 4:06:00 PM CDT May 27, 2020 in News
BOONVILLE - The City of Boonville relies heavily on their summer tourism season with attractions like the Katy Trail, Isle... More >>
4 hours ago Wednesday, May 27 2020 May 27, 2020 Wednesday, May 27, 2020 2:57:00 PM CDT May 27, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - Two 16-year-olds are being held on arson charges in connection to a May 11 fire at the Flanders... More >>
5 hours ago Wednesday, May 27 2020 May 27, 2020 Wednesday, May 27, 2020 2:20:00 PM CDT May 27, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA — As state and commercial testing is more available for the Missourians, the number of confirmed cases is rising.... More >>
5 hours ago Wednesday, May 27 2020 May 27, 2020 Wednesday, May 27, 2020 2:00:00 PM CDT May 27, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - An employee at the Forum Boulevard location of Schnucks has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a company... More >>
5 hours ago Wednesday, May 27 2020 May 27, 2020 Wednesday, May 27, 2020 1:59:00 PM CDT May 27, 2020 in News
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The launch of a SpaceX rocket ship with two NASA astronauts on a history-making flight... More >>
7 hours ago Wednesday, May 27 2020 May 27, 2020 Wednesday, May 27, 2020 12:02:00 PM CDT May 27, 2020 in News
As COVID-19 spreads, KOMU 8 will continue to update you about the impacts on the community. You can find... More >>
12 hours ago Wednesday, May 27 2020 May 27, 2020 Wednesday, May 27, 2020 6:57:00 AM CDT May 27, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA – The messy weather pattern we’ve been in is about to head east and we’ll be left with cooler... More >>
21 hours ago Tuesday, May 26 2020 May 26, 2020 Tuesday, May 26, 2020 9:57:00 PM CDT May 26, 2020 in Weather
LAKE OF THE OZARKS —After videos of a crowded Lake of the Ozarks bar went viral over Memorial Day weekend,... More >>
21 hours ago Tuesday, May 26 2020 May 26, 2020 Tuesday, May 26, 2020 9:45:58 PM CDT May 26, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - With schools closed and after school programs cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the community has gotten creative... More >>
21 hours ago Tuesday, May 26 2020 May 26, 2020 Tuesday, May 26, 2020 9:37:00 PM CDT May 26, 2020 in News
CALLAWAY COUNTY — Deputies from the Callaway County Sheriff's Office arrested an 18-year-old from Tebbetts on Monday. Just after... More >>
22 hours ago Tuesday, May 26 2020 May 26, 2020 Tuesday, May 26, 2020 9:03:11 PM CDT May 26, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY — Some elementary and middle schools in Jefferson City will be holding drive-through celebrations for students. ... More >>
22 hours ago Tuesday, May 26 2020 May 26, 2020 Tuesday, May 26, 2020 8:49:00 PM CDT May 26, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA —A formal plea of not guilty in the murder of Mengqi Ji was filed on behalf of Joseph... More >>
23 hours ago Tuesday, May 26 2020 May 26, 2020 Tuesday, May 26, 2020 8:22:00 PM CDT May 26, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Mike Parson announced Tuesday that Missouri voters will see the constitutional amendment to expand Medicaid eligibility... More >>
23 hours ago Tuesday, May 26 2020 May 26, 2020 Tuesday, May 26, 2020 8:03:00 PM CDT May 26, 2020 in News
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The top health official in Kansas on Tuesday urged Kansans who joined large gatherings at Missouri's... More >>
1 day ago Tuesday, May 26 2020 May 26, 2020 Tuesday, May 26, 2020 6:49:56 PM CDT May 26, 2020 in News
MISSOURI - Missouri is moving into a new phase of COVID-19 reopening that will implement a new set of guidelines... More >>
1 day ago Tuesday, May 26 2020 May 26, 2020 Tuesday, May 26, 2020 5:44:00 PM CDT May 26, 2020 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 68°
8pm 68°
9pm 67°
10pm 69°
11pm 68°