Family of boy decapitated on ‘world’s tallest waterslide’ received £15.6 million after murder charges were dropped
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The family of a 10-year-old boy who died from decapitation on the 'world's tallest waterslide' received a $20 million (£15.6 million) payout after a judge dismissed charges of murder against the waterpark owner.
Caleb Schwab died at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark, Kansas, on 7 August, 2016 after his family had been given free admission as part of an 'elected officials day'.
The park had 14 waterslides and two pools, but the main attraction was the Verrückt, which means 'Insane' in German, as it was the tallest waterslide in the world.
With the waterslide standing at almost 169 feet tall Caleb and his brother Nathan wanted to ride it and promised their parents they'd stick together, but ride operators split them up to meet weight requirements on the rafts people went down the slide on.
Both of the boys ended up riding with two strangers, with Nathan being sent down first. But when Caleb was sent down after him he was travelling at speeds of up to 70 mph. The 10-year-old boy was thrown from his raft and hit the safety netting, being decapitated and killed on impact.
Nathan had to tell the rest of his family what had happened and the case went to court, with a grand jury filing charges of second-degree murder against Schlitterbahn owner Jeff Henry, designer John Schooley and Henry and Sons Construction Co.
In addition to the murder charge, there were also 12 counts of aggravated battery and five counts of aggravated endangering a child.
However, after several years, a judge dismissed all of the charges on the grounds of grand jury abuse due to incidents such as the members of the grand jury being shown a made-for-TV video of the ride which was dramatized.
According to CBS attorneys argued that the video didn't show how the ride actually worked and that the grand jury had not been told that the video was a dramatization.
The defence also argued that jurors were told that the waterslide wasn't built to the proper standards, but the State of Kansas did not require those standards at the time of the ride's construction or at the time of Caleb's death.
The law was instead toughened following the 10-year-old's death, and the defence claimed that with the jurors being told this information, they might have concluded that the water park had been breaking the law.
In 2019, judge Robert Burns dismissed the charges, saying: "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."
"Quite simply, these defendants were not afforded the due process protections and fundamental fairness Kansas law requires."
Caleb's family had previously received around $20 million in settlements, while the two other passengers on the raft with him also received undisclosed fees as settlements.
The Schlitterbahn waterpark was shut down in September 2018, while the Verrückt was permanently closed following Caleb's death and later dismantled.