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Schlitterbahn Has Been Sued At Least Three Times For Negligence Since 2014

Laura Spencer
KCUR 89.3

The death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab Sunday on the Schlitterbahn water park’s Verrückt water slide is the first known accident involving the attraction since it opened in 2014.

But at least three negligence lawsuits have been filed since 2014 against Schlitterbahn, which opened seven years ago – although none involved the Verrückt, at 17 stories the world’s tallest water slide.

In March 2014, Linda Stomboly sued the water park after alleging she was seriously injured in August 2012 while riding the park’s King Kaw attraction. King Kaw is a white water rapids ride that includes chutes and waterfalls.

According to the lawsuit she filed in Wyandotte County District Court, almost immediately after Stomboly started the ride’s descent in her flotation tube, she collided with another tube and was ejected.

While trying to get back in her tube, her leg became stuck as she went over a waterfall, “resulting in multiple spiral fractures of her tibia and fibula,” according to Stomboly’s petition.

Court documents show Schlitterbahn offered to settle the case for $20,000 about four months after the case was filed. It’s unknown if Stomboly accepted that offer, but the case was dismissed a month later, suggesting it was resolved.

Stomboly’s attorney could not be reached for comment.

Another case, involving the park’s Boogie Bahn surfing ride, was filed in Wyandotte County District Court by Robert Boepple in May 2014.

Boepple alleged that on May 25, 2012, he caught his toe on a “protruding item” and fell forward, “striking his head and face while trying to catch himself with his left arm.” Boepple claimed he suffered injuries to his head, neck, back, arm and spine.

Boepple’s attorney, Candis Young, said the case was later dismissed.

“All I can say is it was resolved to the satisfaction of all the parties,” she said.

Young said she was not at liberty to discuss the terms of the settlement.

The third case was brought by Frances Logan and involved the park’s King Kong River ride. Logan claimed she was “severely injured” on Aug. 9, 2014, when she was riding an inner tube with her niece and, at one of the dips in the river, the tube tipped over and her left foot hit a concrete wall.

She contended there were no lifeguards on duty at the time and she had to be pulled out of the river by other patrons.

That case was also settled, according to the case manager for Logan’s attorneys, Ron Netemeyer and Jill Elsbury. The case manager was unable to say if it was settled on confidential terms.

Richard T. Merker, a Kansas City attorney who represents Schlitterbahn, said that apart from the Boepple case, he couldn’t remember if the other two cases were settled. But if they were, he said, “they were for very insignificant amounts of money.”

Merker said all of the parks are inspected daily before the park opens up and Sunday’s accident at the Verrückt “is the first issue we’ve had with this ride at all.”

Merker said Kansas City, Kansas, police and other agencies are investigating the incident “and we’ve cooperated fully with them in all regards.”

“We don’t have any idea what happened to this boy,” he said.

Caleb Schwab was the son of Kansas Rep. Scott Schwab, a Republican of Olathe. No details about the circumstances of his death have been released.

The Schwabs and many other elected officials were at Schlitterbahn for a day celebrating elected officials.

In a statement, the Kansas Department of Labor said it was investigating the accident and “will exercise appropriate authority under relevant Kansas statute and administrative regulations, as they pertain to public safety.”

A 2013 article in the journal Clinical Pediatrics found that between 1990 and 2010, an estimated 92,885 children under the age of 17 were treated in hospital emergency departments for injuries involving amusement park rides, or an average of 4,423 injuries annually. The study concluded that “an improved national system for monitoring injuries involving amusement park rides is needed.”

Dan Margolies, editor of the Heartland Health Monitor team, is based at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
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