Caleb Schwab, a 10 year boy, was fatally injured while riding the world's tallest water slide, "Verruckt", at a Kansas City water park. Park goers described hearing "a noise that didn't sound like it was supposed to come from that kind of ride." Reports state that the child's body was thrown from his seat and bounced between the netting that covers the slide and the slide itself, before ultimately sliding down into the pool below.
"Verruckt", which means insane in German is listed as the world's tallest water slide at 168 feet. The slide, located at the Schlitterbahn water park, consists of a raft which multiple riders are strapped into before being sent down the slide. While the slide has no age requirements, riders are required to be at least 54 inches tall in order to access it. Riders are harnessed into the rafts with two straps - one across the rider's lap and the other diagonally across the person's chest, similar to a car seatbelt. Notably, the straps which secure riders into their rafts are held in place by long velcro-like straps, not by buckles.
According to one professor of engineering at North Carolina State University, the material used on these particular straps is not designed to keep a person secured in their seat, and can also degrade with use. Although the slide had passed an inspection as recently as June 7, early testing of the slide saw sandbags and rafts flying off, prompting a redesign by engineers.
In New York, the doctrine of assumption of risk generally makes lawsuits against amusement parks and waters parks for injuries sustained on rides untenable. In brief, under the law, the patron is assuming the risk of injury that might ordinarily be expected from the action of the ride. However, where the victim of an accident can show that the park negligently failed to ensure the safety of the patrons, such as by providing defective or broken safety equipment, there may be a viable cause of action.
If you or someone you know was injured on a ride, contact our office for a free consultation.