Industry expert discusses approach to amusement ride inspection in Kansas

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. – On Wednesday FOX 4 learned new details about the investigation into Verruckt, the water slide where 10-year old Caleb Schwab died on Sunday.

The Associated Press reports that the rides at Schlitterbahn, including Verruckt, passed private inspection in June.

FOX 4 requested the same documents from the state, and while it sent dozens of pages of paperwork from 2012, there were no inspection reports and nothing that even mentioned the Verruckt slide, which opened in 2014.

FOX 4 talked with one industry expert who says Kansas is among states with the worst reputation for inspecting and enforcing rules for amusement parks.

“If I was looking to get something that has never been tested, yeah, I would go where it would be easy to test it out, sure,” said Zach Wilson of FUN Services.

Wilson owns FUN Services, an amusement ride company. He is subject to the same rules and regulations as Schlitterbahn for operation and inspection of amusement park rides.

“There`s nothing except responsibility by the amusement owner or the obligation by the amusement owner by the state of Kansas,” Wilson explained.

The Kansas Department of Labor is the regulatory commission for amusement parks and rides. KDOL has the authority to conduct random inspections of records, but amusement parks are obligated to self-inspect their rides and are not required to send proof to the state.

“You better be taking care of your own stuff, and fortunately we will be following everything for the state of Missouri,” Wilson said.

Wilson says Missouri does a good job of having a streamlined process to ensure inspections and reduce injuries. Amusement operators must have certified inspector check rides every year and those inspections must be filed with the Missouri Department of Fire and Safety. They it issues a permit which must be posted on the ride.

FOX 4 showed Wilson the reports we received from the KDOL in response to our open records request regarding Schlitterbahn and Verruckt.

“Nothing in here, lots of lifeguard types of things.”

“This is your report itinerary for a travelling show.”

“There is not anything specific that they have done anything on these rides,” he observed.

Wilson says he, as an amusement park operator, wants to be part of the solution. He also says you can have rides that are fully operational, pass inspection and have never had a problem -- but are not safe if they are not operated properly.

He's especially concerned about reports that the Velcro straps on the may have failed in the past. FOX 4 called Schlitterbahn to ask about any complaints, those calls weren’t returned.