Water Slide Co-Designer Charged with Murder over Child Decapitated on Ride

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File

72-year-old John Schooley has been charged with second-degree murder in the tragic death of a child on the water slide he co-designed.

Schooley was arrested at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport on Monday, just after returning from China. In addition to murder, Schooley also faces charges of aggravated battery and aggravated endangerment of a child.

A Kansas grand jury has indicted all three men involved in the incident that resulted in the decapitation of Caleb Schwab, son of Kansas State Representative Scott Schwab. The boy’s raft lost control on the 17-foot slide, and he was killed as he hit an overhead loop at high speed.

Charged along with Schooley are co-owner Jeffrey Henry and the private construction company of the park, Henry & Sons Construction Co. Both have been charged with reckless second-degree murder as well as 17 other felonies related to other incidents on the “Varruckt” slide.

But it was Schooley himself who signed off on the ride, claiming it met all of the required American Society for Testing and Materials standards for use. Even then, he allegedly said that “if we actually knew how to do this, and it could be done that easily, it wouldn’t be that spectacular.”

“Not a single engineer was directly involved in Verruckt’s dynamic engineering or slide path design,” according to the indictments. Those same indictments also claim that Henry rushed production of the slide in order to impress executives involved with a Travel Channel television program.

Thus far, the Schwab family has reached a $20 million settlement with the Schlitterbahn water park and companies associated with the slide’s production.

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