FF12 gets Schlitterbahn inspection pictures, liability questions answered

Published: Aug. 11, 2016 at 5:46 PM CDT
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FactFinder 12 got nearly 200 pictures an inspector took during an inspection of Schlitterbahn June 7.

Of the nearly 200 pictures, more than 30 are of the Verruckt slide or areas surrounding the slide. They show the rafts including the straps that several people have complained about. They also show equipment that make the ride work as well as safety signs posted around the ride.

The safety signs describe a weight requirement of 400-550 pounds per raft, which consists of two or three people. They also have a height requirement and what appears to be a prior age requirement that has been covered up.

The pictures give us an idea of part of what investigators are looking at as they determine what happened Sunday at Schlitterbahn in Kansas City. The investigation is ongoing.

The Kansas Department of Labor requested several documents from Schlitterbahn August 9 with a deadline of August 10. The requests included the current certification of an inspector's qualifications to inspect amusement rides, the current signed certificate of inspection, the maintenance and inspection records and results of nondestructive testing.

KDOL also requested some manufacturer documents including the manufacturer's operational manual, the manufacturer's nondestructive testing recommendations and the manufacturer's inspection guidelines.

Schlitterbahn's attorney, Richard Merker, responded to the request with some of those documents, including the pictures FactFinder 12 obtained, but wrote, "Please let this letter serve as our formal request for an onsite inspection in lieu of producing the hundreds of pages of documents requested in your letter."

The boy who died on the ride, 10-year-old Caleb Schwab's family has hired a lawyer according to the family's church. The church said the Schwabs have hired Michael Rader with Bartimus Frickleton Robertson out of Leawood. A call to the firm was not returned.

FactFinder 12 asked Attorney Charley O'Hara who could possibly be liable for Schwab's death. O'Hara is not involved with the case at all and said until the details of the investigation come out, it's hard to pinpoint who is at fault.

But he did say at this point, nearly everyone is a possibility.

"Well I would think everyone involved is liable. I mean it appears to be something that there's very little excuse for," O'Hara said. "The people who designed it, the people that built it, the people that provided things for it, the people who are running it, and the people on it."

He said at this point, we can't know what went wrong or who made a mistake, if anyone.

"Everybody's going to be blaming everybody," he said.

We asked O'Hara about a specific paragraph in a letter FactFinder 12 got that was from the inspector and addressed to Schlitterbahn.

It reads, "Please be advised that this survey reflects the conditions observed or found at the time of the inspection only, and does not certify safety or integrity of the rides and attractions, physical operations, or management practices at any time in the future. Not does the survey certify the structural integrity of any building, structure or public area observed."

O'Hara said, "The paragraph is basically saying as we see it today, it meets minimum standards basically. It doesn't mean it meets minimum standards tomorrow or even when we leave the park."

He said that could put the inspector's report out of the way of blame, unless investigators determine he missed something or was careless in his inspection.

Regardless, O'Hara said this isn't enough.

"These reports that we get where everybody's trying to cover for themselves I don't think is really good enough," O'Hara said. "If you're going to put your child or yourself on a ride, expect and get belted in, you expect the belt to hold, you expect to end the ride without being injured or killed."

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