How Negligence Led to the Verrückt Waterslide Accident

Towering 169 feet high, or approximately 17 stories, the Verrückt water slide at Schlitterbahn Water Park was the tallest water slide in the world. After opening in July 2014, the slide became the site of a fatal accident in August 2016. A 10-year-old boy went down the nearly vertical chute, became airborne, hit a metal pole supporting the safety net and was decapitated. New York residents should know that the park has been closed and the slide demolished.

An investigation into the accident uncovered a story of gross negligence on the part of the park’s co-owner and the water slide’s senior designer. The two had fast-tracked the construction of the Verrückt so that it could appear on a reality TV show involving amusement parks. They were also aiming for a spot in Guinness World Records. Safety testing was made up of simplistic trial-and-error methods, amounting to little more than seeing if sandbags would go airborne on the slide.

Neither party had expertise in mechanical engineering, and they ignored crucial steps in the design process. However, they were able to get away with this and call the ride safe because Kansas law does not require water parks to be inspected by a state agency. The two were indicted for involuntary manslaughter and other charges, but a judge dismissed the charges in February 2019.

This is an extreme example of a premises liability case. Property owners, whether they own an office building, a store or an amusement park, have a duty of care to all lawful entrants. When lawful entrants are injured through no fault of their own, they can file a premises liability claim. If they die, then the family may file a wrongful death lawsuit. In either case, it might be wise to see a lawyer. Legal representation may be helpful when negotiating a settlement.

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