Water park official facing murder charge in boy’s waterslide decapitation
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A water park company's co-owner was being held in a Texas jail on murder and other charges Tuesday in connection to a Kansas criminal case in the death of a 10-year-old boy on what was promoted as the world's largest waterslide.
Jail records show that Jeffrey Henry, the 62-year-old co-owner of Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts, was booked into the jail in Cameron County, Texas, on three charges: murder, aggravated battery and aggravated child endangerment.
He was being held on a $500,000 bond, and a jail booking clerk said he would remain there until a court appearance later Tuesday.
Henry's arrest on Monday followed a Kansas grand jury's indictment last week of the Schlitterbahn park in Kansas City, Kansas, and its former operations director, Tyler Austin Miles, on 20 felony charges. The charges include a single count of involuntary manslaughter over the death of Caleb Schwab in 2016.
"While we as a family continue to mourn and heal from Caleb's passing, we wanted to again thank the community of Kansas City for its continued prayers and support," Caleb's father, Kansas Republican state Rep. Scott Schwab, said in a statement Tuesday. "Clearly the issues with Schlitterbahn go far beyond Caleb's incident, and we know the attorney general will take appropriate steps in the interest of public safety."
Schlitterbahn spokeswoman Winter Prosapio said that considering last week's indictment, the company is not surprised by Henry's arrest. The company also promised to aggressively fight the criminal charges against Miles and the park, and respond to the allegations in the 47-page indictment "point by point."
"We as a company and as a family will fight these allegations and have confidence that once the facts are presented it will be clear that what happened on the ride was an unforeseeable accident," she said in an emailed statement.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office did not immediately respond to phone calls and emails seeking further comment, details about Henry's arrest, or information about exactly what criminal charges he faces. The Kansas City Star reported that Henry was taken into custody by U.S. marshals out of Brownsville, Texas.
Prosapio said Schlitterbahn does not expect any changes to the Kansas City park's season, which is set to open May 25 and run through Labor Day. The big slide there — Verruckt, or German for "insane" — has been closed since Caleb died.
The boy was decapitated after the raft on which he was riding went airborne. The family reached settlements of nearly $20 million with Schlitterbahn and various companies associated with the design and construction of the waterslide.
The two women who rode with Caleb suffered serious injuries and settled claims with Schlitterbahn for an undisclosed amount.
The indictment against Miles and the park alleges that Verruckt met few, if any, industry standards and that Miles delayed or avoided necessary repairs, even after the ride's brake system failed.
The indictment also said Henry helped design the giant waterslide even though he had "no technical or engineering credentials" and that he set a "rushed timeline" for its construction.
Schlitterbahn said last week's indictment is "full of false information," and the company also rejected its allegations that Miles and the company withheld information from law enforcement officials. It said the allegation that Caleb's death was foreseeable is "beyond the pale of speculation."
Miles' attorneys said in their own statement that they welcome the opportunity to prove his innocence in court.
"Not only had Tyler ridden the slide numerous times, but, as the State is aware, he had scheduled his wife, to ride it on the day of the accident," the attorneys, Tom and Tricia Bath, said in their statement. "These are not the actions of someone who believed the ride to be dangerous."
Associated Press writers David Warren and Terry Wallace in Dallas also contributed to this report.