Caleb Schwab Wanted to Ride Schlitterbahn Slide With Brother, but They Didn't Meet Minimum Weight, Report Says
When Nate Schwab, 12, climbed up the now infamous Verrückt water slide at the Schlitterbahn water park with his younger brother, Caleb, 10, in Kansas City on Sunday, he planned to enjoy the thrill ride with his sibling but ended up watching Caleb die instead.
According to Schlitterbahn Kansas City, each raft sliding down the 17-story Verrückt attraction must have two to three riders with a combined weight between 400 and 550 pounds. This is to prevent the rubber raft from going airborne off the hill that comes after the initial 17-story, almost vertical drop.
On Sunday, just hours after worshiping with their parents — Republican Kansas state Rep. Scott Schwab and his wife, Michele — at the LifeMission Church in Olathe, Caleb and Nate reportedly climbed to the top of the Verrückt to experience the thrill of the "insane" ride together.
Eyewitness reports cited by Sandrarose.com say the brothers were weighed on a scale at the bottom of the Verrückt tower and once again at the top. They were then told they could not ride the raft together with a third person because the combined weight of all three riders would not meet the 400 pound minimum weight needed for the raft.
The report said Nate went down the water slide safely with two adult strangers but things went horribly wrong for Caleb.
Kansas officials say when police and fire officials arrived at the Schlitterbahn water park at about 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Caleb was found decapitated in the pool at the end of the water ride. An investigation into what exactly happened is currently underway.
The Kansas City Star says Caleb's parents have hired Michael Rader and Edward Robertson Jr. from the Leawood law firm Bartimus Frickleton Robertson. The firm said neither the family nor its lawyers would make public statements about the incident until the investigation is over.
Details provided by Sandrarose.com, however, suggest Caleb's death could have been caused by an underweight raft.
Caleb was placed in a raft, says the report, with two women who were strangers to him. He was placed at the front of the raft in accordance with park policy and was secured with two large velcro straps. One strap went across his shoulder like a car's seatbelt, and the other strap was secured around his waist. The report noted that witness accounts on social media said the combined weight of the two adult women and Caleb did not equal the minimum required 400 pounds. Other witness accounts noted that the scale at the top of the slide was malfunctioning on Sunday.
Witnesses say the initial 17-story vertical drop straight down on the slide went as expected for Caleb's group but things started going off script as the raft crested the second smaller hill on the slide that precedes a gut-wrenching 50-foot drop that caps the ride.
"Prior test runs showed water friction caused the rafts to come to a dead stop before cresting the smaller hill. So powerful water jets were added to push the rafts up and over the smaller hill," Sandrarose.com explained.
"The force of the water jets were adjusted to keep the rafts from flying off the slide. The 400 pound weight limit of the passengers was designed to keep the front of the raft from lifting and catching air at the top of the hill," it added.
The website noted that it was near the top of the smaller hill that Caleb's raft went airborne due to the three passengers being under the 400 pound weight minimum required for the ride.
"The velcro strap that should have held Caleb in the raft failed, and he was launched into the netting. His head collided with one of the metal hoop bars supporting the netting. At 65 miles per hour, Caleb's head was decapitated above the shoulders," the report explained.
Some reports have claimed that Caleb's head hit one of the women in the raft, fracturing her jaw and causing an eye injury. Both women also suffered facial lacerations from the netting.
According to The Hays Daily News, the two women are sisters from a small town near the Nebraska-Kansas state line. They have asked to remain anonymous for now as they try to recover from what happened on the water slide.
"We feel really bad for his (Caleb's) family," the husband of one of the women told The Hays.
He said his wife needed eight stitches in her chin and suffered a broken jaw. They were also expected to see a specialist in Nebraska to see if the jaw needed to be wired shut or left alone to heal on its own. His sister-in-law needed five stitches above her left eye and had bruising on her eyeball, as well as a fracture under her eye.
Nate, who watched his little brother's death unfold, reportedly began screaming hysterically when he saw what happened on Sunday.
"The little boy said to a worker, 'I just saw my little brother die because of one of your attractions,'" Leslie Castaneda, of Kansas City told KMBC before running off to find his mother.
Since the tragedy on Sunday, the Schwabs have been receiving an outpouring of support from their community.
Rick Lukianuk, the chief administrator at Heritage Christian Academy where Caleb was expected to start the fifth grade shortly, said the 10-year-old was known for his leadership and integrity and he would be missed.
"When I see a little gap and I look at that class, what would be the fifth grade class now, and don't see his face in there it'll hit me more," Lukianuk told local news station KSHB.
"The school's a better place, we're a better place because Caleb was here," he said.
While looking at the 2015-2016 yearbook, Lukianuk also shared his feelings about Caleb's tragic death. "He's also in there and he's been here for years and there are great memories of him. We also have some joy to celebrate and we also have a great big thank you to God for allowing him to be here as long as he was."
According to People magazine, Caleb's friend Jack Sloan, 10, told his mother, Robin Sloan, about conversations they had during their days attending Sunday School together at LifeMission Church.
"They talked about Heaven," Robin Sloan said. "Jack loved chocolate milk. [He and Caleb] said there would be endless amounts in Heaven."
Jack said Caleb was a "nice, happy kid," Robin Sloan said.
"He was a hugger," she recalled of Caleb. "He always hugged Jack whenever he saw him."
Visitation for Caleb will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday at LifeMission Church in Olathe. A memorial service is set for 2 p.m. on Friday.