In 2012, Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeff Henry envisioned building a record-height water slide. By 2013, Henry began sharing his inspiration to make Wyandotte County the site of the world’s tallest water slide — a process largely controlled by Schlitterbahn with little interference from any government regulators. The Verrückt opened a year later in all its 168-foot, heart-stopping glory.
But now, following the death of 10-year-old Caleb Thomas Schwab on Aug. 7, an examination by The Kansas City Star of the creation and construction of Verrückt shows how little stood in the path of the idea.
Was the design of the ride too aggressive? Did it bake in too many hard-to-control factors? Did late-stage changes aimed at safety — namely the addition of netting supported by metal hoops just above where guests would sail at speeds reaching 70 miles per hour — pose added danger? And whose decision was it?
An official investigation figures to take weeks, if not months, to complete. Schlitterbahn and others involved in building the slide have declined interview requests in the accident’s aftermath. Yet signs show that a slide that took its name from the German word for insane encountered few obstacles.
Read more: Kansas City Star