OLATHE, Kan.—The parents of a 10-year-old boy who died while riding on the world’s tallest water slide at a water park in Kansas said they are still grieving but are thankful for the condolences they have received from around the world.
In an interview Monday on “Good Morning America,” Kansas state Rep. Scott Schwab and his wife, Michele, recalled the “surreal” events of Aug. 7, 2016, when their son, Caleb, died aboard the “Verruckt” waterslide at the Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City, Kansas.
“Six went to the park, five came back,” Scott Schwab said.
The Schwabs, of Olathe, took their four sons to the waterpark that day because it was offering free admission for state lawmakers. When they arrived, Caleb and his 12-year-old brother, Nathan, went right to the “Verruckt,” which featured a 17-story plunge.
Scott Schwab recalled the last conversation he had with his son.
“Before they took off, I said, ‘Brothers stick together,’ and he said, ‘I know, Dad.’ I said, ‘Look at me, brothers stick together.’ ‘I know, Dad.”’
Nathan was waiting at the bottom when Caleb was killed.
Investigators have not publicly spoken about how Caleb died, but a person familiar with the investigation previously told the AP he was decapitated on the ride. That person spoke on condition of anonymity because that person was not authorized to speak publicly about Caleb’s death.
“(Nathan) was screaming, ‘He flew from Verruckt. He flew from Verruckt,”’ Michele said, adding her son was so distraught he couldn’t explain what he had seen.
Michele said a man wouldn’t allow her to get close enough to see what was going on.
“He just kept saying, ‘Trust me, you don’t want to go any further,”’ she said.
Scott Schwab said he was in such shock that he needed someone to confirm what had happened.
“I said, ‘I just need to hear you say is my son dead.” And he just shook his head, and I said, ‘I need to hear it from you. Is he dead?’ And he said, “Yes, your son’s dead.’ It was surreal. I don’t even remember driving home.”
The family reached a settlement in January with the owners of Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Zebec, which manufactured the raft that was carrying Caleb on the ride. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed but attorneys said it would provide lifetime payments to Caleb’s three brothers. The family’s attorney has said additional claims will be filed against other parties.
“It’s an accident, but there’s some accounting because someone was negligent,” Scott Schwab said.
Caleb’s parents said they miss giving him hugs and hearing about his day, but that they are sustained by their faith and the kindness of others.
“We have a box of greeting cards from around the world, and we just want people to know we’re thankful,” Scott Schwab said. “And yeah, we’re still hurting but we’re going to be OK.”
No criminal charges have been filed in Caleb’s death. Schlitterbahn officials have said the ride will be dismantled as soon as the investigation is complete.