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Kansas Legislature Passes Oversight After Waterslide Death

Hugo Phan

Kansas legislators agreed Friday to strengthen the state's lax oversight of amusement park rides after a lawmaker's 10-year-old son was killed last year while riding a waterslide.

The Senate approved the bill 35-2 on Friday, just days after the House also overwhelmingly approved changing the law.

Rep. Scott Schwab's son Caleb died last summer on the Verruckt waterslide at Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City, Kansas. Schwab didn't comment on the legislation until he gave an emotional speech last week in support of the bill. The investigation into the death is ongoing, but the slide has been closed since the accident.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback said he wanted to look at the legislation but would be "following Rep. Schwab's lead."

Under the legislation, amusement park rides would have to be inspected every year by qualified inspector. The bill stipulates such a professional be an inspector certified by one of several national boards; an engineer with two years of experience in the amusement park field, including one year in inspections; or someone with five years of experience in the field, with two of those in inspections.

The bill also requires parks to report injuries.

Current law requires inspections but allows amusement park owners do the checks themselves. The law came under scrutiny after Caleb's death. The slide he was riding, dubbed the "world's tallest" at 168 feet, had passed a private inspection earlier that summer.

Rep. John Barker, who led an effort to research reforms, said he found that Kansas regulations were some of the weakest in the country.

The Verruckt slide was shuttered after the fatal accident. The park is waiting for a court order before it can tear down the slide, Schlitterbahn spokeswoman Winter Prosapio said.

The Schwab family reached an undisclosed settlement in January with the park's owner and the manufacturer of the rafts the ride used.