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Waterpark Co-Owner Faces Reckless Murder Charge for Boy's Death

By Ceylan Pumphrey, Esq. on March 28, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Waterparks can be a fun activity for kids in the summer, and even for adults sometimes. But, they also carry the risk of serious injury -- from drowning to slip and fall injuries. While patrons at waterparks are usually required to sign a release of liability, there are times when a waterpark can be held liable for certain injuries suffered by its patrons. In fact, certain injuries may even result in criminal liability.

For example, Jeffrey Henry, the co-owner of Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts, a waterpark in Kansas, has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder in the death of a 10-year-old boy who was decapitated on a waterslide.

The Reason for the Charges

In 2016, Caleb Schwab was decapitated when his raft became airborne and hit hoops and netting overhead. The incident also injured two adults. In addition to Henry, John Schooley, the ride designer, was also indicted on a charge of reckless second-degree murder. The two have also been charged with aggravated battery and reckless child endangerment. In addition to the charges faced by Henry and Schooley, the waterpark and its former operations director were also charged with 20 criminal counts, which include involuntary manslaughter and aggravated child endangerment.

According to the indictment, Henry is a high school dropout who lacks any technical or engineering credentials. Despite this fact, Henry had control of many decisions relating to the waterpark's design and construction projects.

The indictment also says that the waterpark rushed to finish the water slide in order to impress the producers of a show called Xtreme Waterparks, and "obviously ignored" warning from a consultant who said the ride was unsafe. Finally, according to the indictment, although it was initially thought that Schwab's death was an isolated incident, whistleblowers came forward saying that the waterpark had covered up other similar incidents.

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