Four Rides at Kansas Water Park Still Shut Over Safety Concerns
Four rides at a Kansas water park where a 10-year-old boy was decapitated remain closed two months after auditors found that the rides did not comply with state requirements for amusement park rides.
Permits for the four rides at the Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City, Kansas, expired July 1 and it's unclear when they will reopen, The Kansas City Star reported . The four rides — Soaring Eagle, Boogie Bahn, Whirlpool and Wolfpack — were among 11 rides that regulators from the Kansas Department of Labor audited in May. The other seven rides have since resumed operations.
The audit occurred after 10-year-old Caleb Schwab was decapitated in August 2016 while riding the 17-story Verruckt waterslide.
"Three of the four rides required additional time to address certain administrative issues raised in the audit findings," Schlitterbahn spokeswoman Winter Prosapio said in an email. She said the Whirlpool will not open this season because a pump needs to be replaced.
The audit found 11 violations of state amusement park regulations, mostly pertaining to record-keeping and safety signs.
While Schlitterbahn has called the findings mostly administrative, a labor department document recently released to The Star said two of the rides had maintenance issues. The audit also said Schlitterbahn could not show records indicating the company had a certified weld inspector look at the Soaring Eagle Zipline after 5,000 uses, which is required by a manufacturer's maintenance schedule.
Prosapio disputed the audit's report that the park asked the ride's manufacturer to issue new inspection guidelines while the state was inspecting the park in May. She said new maintenance schedules were going to be issued by the manufacturer even without the audit.
A new service bulletin was issued by Soaring Eagle's Utah-based manufacturer on May 17, the second day state auditors inspected the water park. The service bulletin said owners don't need to have weld inspections after 5,000 uses and instead suggesting the inspection occur after six seasons of use.
Cody Davis, a vice president at Utah-based ride manufacturer Soaring Eagle Zip Line Inc., said Schlitterbahn called him about the new service bulletin.
"I have written letters to other customers in the past letting them know that they don't have to have a certified weld inspector do that, but that's the first time I did actually issue a service bulletin," Davis said.
Schlitterbahn said it believes the state labor department is singling out the company.
"It is obvious that the KDOL is applying wholly different standards to Schlitterbahn than to other operators in the State despite the fact that the ride involved in the 2016 fatality is no longer operating and there is no history of safety issues associated with any other ride at the park," the company said in a statement.
The co-owner of the Texas-based Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts, one of the Verruckt slide's designers, the Kansas City park's former operations director, the company that built Verruckt and two maintenance workers all face charges in Caleb Schwab's death. They have pleaded not guilty.