Interview from July 2014 with water slide designer: ‘We had a great team involved in doing this’

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John Schooley, Verruckt designer

John Schooley, Verruckt designer

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — On July 9, 2014, FOX 4 interviewed one of the designers of the Verrückt, which was finally set to open the following day at Schlitterbahn Waterpark, after the slide’s grand opening was delayed at least four times. (Read more about that here in the story from July 2014.)

John Schooley helped design the 17-story water slide at Schlitterbahn, which boasts that it’s taller than Niagara Falls, taller than the Statue of Liberty.

Caleb Thomas Schwab

Caleb Thomas Schwab

At the time, there was a lot of anticipation, and perhaps hesitation about the ride. Two years later, the hesitation has turned to heightened skepticism from many in the public about the ride’s safety after the death of Caleb Schwab, 10, of Olathe who suffered severe neck injuries while riding the Verrückt slide with two other women.

Schlitterbahn said it had no problems prior to the accident that killed Caleb Schwab. Below is the interview from July 2014, in which John Schooley spoke about the ride and all that went into its grand opening:


On the change in ride restrictions (allowing 3 people per raft instead of 4, requiring passengers be 54″ tall, and 14-years old):

“The restrictions had to do with the energy that is gained by these boats as they go down this steep drop,” said John Schooley. “They have a lot of momentum so we have a window that the slide works really well in and it’s a reasonable window and we liked having three people in it and that’s what has brought it about. It’s a very high-thrill ride. It’s very technical and that’s it, you know, we built it, we’ve been building it for two years. We designed it. We tested it. We didn’t like what we saw. We tore two-thirds of it down, rebuilt it again in two or three weeks and we really like what we have now.”

On the testing process:

“We tested this ride repeatedly, well over a hundred times with sandbags representing various weights of people on various configurations of seating in the raft. Had no problems whatsoever. Then we went into a testing of well over a hundred live tests with our lifeguards and staff here and found no problems. Everybody loves it. We had ergonomic testing done on the slide to make sure the forces in the slide are good for people. So, we’re really happy with what we have now.”

On Schooley going down the slide the first time:

“Going down the first time on these things is really like nothing else because you just don’t know for sure and it’s extra-thrilling. It’s something you have to do because you can’t ask someone to go down something you designed and helped build and conceived of without doing it yourself first.”

“We had a lot of people and a great team involved in doing this.”

On Tuesday, two days after Caleb’s death, the Kansas Department of Labor released the following statement about Schlitterbahn’s compliance with regulations:

The Kansas Department of Labor and Secretary Lana Gordon wish to extend our continued thoughts and prayers to the Schwab family during this incredibly difficult time.

Safety reviews and regulatory compliances fall to various entities. State law and regulations require that amusement parks perform annual safety inspection by safety officials licensed by the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials. KDOL has the authority to ‘conduct random’ inspections of the records and certificates of inspection, along with any other documentation related to statutory compliance.

All occurrences of serious injury resulting from the operation of an amusement ride require that the ride be immediately discontinued by the park pending further inspection. KDOL is acting to ensure full compliance with this and other provisions of the act and associated administrative regulations.

KDOL has requested documentation from Kansas Schlitterbahn Water Park to ensure all safety requirements have been followed.”

Also Tuesday, Schlitterbahn announced: “A limited portion of our Kansas City park will open for guests at noon on Wednesday. Verrückt will not re-open for the remainder of the season.

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