Judge ACQUITS Water Park Owners In BOY’S DEATH
A judge dismissed criminal charges Friday against a Kansas water park owner and the designer of a 17-story slide on which a 10-year-old boy was decapitated in 2016.
Wyandotte County Judge Robert Burns cited improper evidence in dropping second-degree murder charges against Schlitterbahn owner Jeff Henry, designer John Schooley, and general contractor Henry and Sons Construction Co. The judge also dismissed an involuntary manslaughter charge against operations manager Tyler Miles, The Kansas City Star reported.
They were charged after Caleb Schwab died while riding the waterslide, which was marketed as the world’s tallest slide.
“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,” Judge Robert Burns said. “Quite simply, these defendants were not afforded the due process protections and fundamental fairness Kansas law requires.”
The defense argued that the jury was not informed that they were watching a dramatization.
Another point of contention was the prosecution’s use of an expert witnesses, who insinuated to jurors that the water park’s owners were negligent in failing to comply with American Society of Testing and Materials standards when building the Verruckt. However, that was not a requirement under Kansas law until 2017.
The judge also took issue with the expert witness’ reference of the 2013 death of another man at a different Schlitterbahn park in Texas, calling it “wholly unrelated.”
“I obviously recognize that the circumstances and events giving rise to these indictments are indisputably tragic,” he said, according to the Kansas City Star. “A young child’s life was lost and his troubling death was mourned by family, friends and the entire Kansas City community and beyond.”
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a statement that his office, which prosecuted the case, was disappointed and “respectfully disagrees” with Burns’ ruling.
“We will review the ruling carefully, including the court’s observation that the ruling ‘does not preclude the possibility that the State could continue to pursue this matter in a criminal court,’ and take a fresh look at the evidence and applicable law in this tragic and troubling case to determine the best course forward,” Schmidt said.
Caleb was killed on the Verruckt — German for “crazy” — in 2016 when the raft he was riding went airborne and hit a metal pole. Two women who were with him in the raft were seriously injured. The slide never operated again and has been torn down.
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