Amusement Park Accidents Raise Questions About Safety of Water Slides, Ferris Wheels, Other Rides

Two recent amusement park accidents which left one 10-year-old boy dead and three young girls injured, have raised serious raising questions about the safety and regulation of water slides, Ferris Wheels and other rides commonly found throughout the U.S. 

Caleb Schwab, the son of a Kansas lawmaker, was reportedly decapitated on Sunday when something went wrong as he was riding the “Verrückt”, which is the world’s tallest water slide, at Schlitterbahn Kansas City water park. The water slide death is still under investigation, and the park has been closed for several days.

The day after Schwab’s death, three young girls fell from a Ferris wheel at a county fair in Tennessee, after the basket they were in tipped over, dropping them from 30 to 45 feet above the ground. All three were injured, and at least one suffered a traumatic brain injury. The fair in Greene County has been shut down until a third-party inspection is completed on the Ferris wheel, according to the Greene County Fair Board. The rides were operated by Family Attractions Amusement.

Did You Know?

Millions of Philips CPAP Machines Recalled

Philips DreamStation, CPAP and BiPAP machines sold in recent years may pose a risk of cancer, lung damage and other injuries.

Learn More

The two amusement park accidents have revealed a significant lack of regulation and oversight of rides nationwide, some critics say. Regulations for ride safety vary from state to state, and in some states the chain of responsibility is unclear to non-existent.

Traveling rides, like the one in the Ferris wheel accident, which can cross state lines, fall under the purview of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC used to oversee fixed rides as well, but Congress handed that power to the states in 1981.

In Kansas, for example, parks like Schlitterbahn are allowed to conduct their own safety inspections, according to state labor department officials. The inspectors just need to be licensed by the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials (NAARSO).

However, the Verrückt, which has a drop that is higher than Niagra Falls or the Statue of Liberty, has had known design problems from the start, with rafts literally flying off the track during testing. Some witnesses on the day Schwab died said that the velcro restraints used to keep riders in place did not seem to be working. In addition, there is uncertainty on whether Schwab even met the weight and height requirements.

His death is under investigation by Kansas City Police, and the water slide will be closed even when the park reopens, officials say.

“We are deeply and intensely saddened for the Schwab Family and all who were impacted by the tragic accident on the Verrückt water slide at Schlitterbahn Kansas City on Sunday afternoon,” according to a Schlitterbahn park statement issued on Monday. “The family and each and every one of those affected are foremost on our minds and in our hearts today. We ask the community to please keep all of those impacted in your thoughts and prayers.”

According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), about 335 million people take 1.6 billion rides every year in the country’s amusement parks.


Share Your Comments

I authorize the above comments be posted on this page*

Want your comments reviewed by a lawyer?

To have an attorney review your comments and contact you about a potential case, provide your contact information below. This will not be published.

NOTE: Providing information for review by an attorney does not form an attorney-client relationship.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

More Top Stories