Experts have questioned why staff at the Schlitterbahn park in Kansas positioned a 10-year-old boy who was killed on the “world’s tallest” water slide in the front of the raft.
Two heavier riders were placed in the back of raft used to slide down the Verruckt ride, where Caleb Schwab was killed. Police confirmed the 73-pound Schwab sat in the front while a woman weighing 197 pounds and another woman weighing 275 pounds were seated behind him.
Mariusz Ziejewski, a professor in the department of engineering at North Dakota State University, told the Kansas City Star that on a ride like the Verruckt, balanced weight distribution should be a priority. Too much weight in the back of the raft could push its front upward.
“You kind of have this catapult upwards,” Ziejewski told the paper. “Maybe this was a contributing factor. That’s not good.”
“The question really is whoever was designing and verifying the rides, in what kind of extreme conditions did they test it?” Ziejewski asked. “We are worrying about what could go wrong. What are the extreme conditions that are still allowable?”
If the back is loaded much heavier compared with the front, the center of mass and the raft’s pivot point would be shifted toward the rear of the raft. And if it were to go airborne, the raft could “pop a wheelie,” with the back remaining low while the nose is pushed upward, the Star said.
“There’s no question that having a light person in front made it worse,” Charles Horton, an aerospace systems engineer from Charlotte, told the Star.
According to the newspaper, Ziejewski also questioned the restraints used on the Verruckt. He suggested a seat-belt system similar to those used in cars. Reports say that a VELCRO-like restraint system is currently used on the ride.
“There is a technology that assures that the [automobile seat] belt is properly functioning or properly engaged with the body,” Ziejewski told the paper. “One of the limitations with Velcro is how it positions, where it is, how well it restrains the person.”
A teacher and friends who knew Schwab talked about him fondly, saying he was very welcoming with new students.
“He just embraced the new kid and was friends with him immediately. He was so quick to include him,” his fourth grade teacher Jeanie Euler told People magazine.
Schwab, of Olathe, Kansas, was killed after he was thrown from the ride, which is 168 feet tall. The Associated Press reported that he was decapitated.
In a statement earlier this month, Schlitterbahn officials said that they “are deeply and intensely saddened for the Schwab family and all who were impacted by the tragic accident.”
“The family and each and every one of those affected are foremost on our minds and in our hearts today. We ask the community to please keep all of those impacted in your thoughts and prayers,” representatives for the park told ABC News.