Schlitterbahn co-owner charged with second-degree murder in KCK waterslide death

Schlitterbahn Waterpark co-owner Jeffrey W. Henry was arrested in connection with a waterslide death in August 2016 in Kansas City, Kansas, and an indictment of second-degree murder was filed in Wyandotte County District Court. Last week, the former Schlitterbahn operations director, Tyler Miles, was indicted along with the corporation on charges of involuntary manslaughter in connection with a death on the Verruckt waterslide.
(Wyandotte Daily file photo)

Jeffrey W. Henry, a co-owner of the Schlitterbahn Waterpark, has been arrested in Texas and a 46-page indictment for second-degree murder has been unsealed in Wyandotte County District Court in connection with an investigation into a death in August 2016 at the Kansas City, Kansas, waterpark.

Henry, besides being the co-owner, was one of the designers of the Verruckt waterslide here.

Also, the new indictment charges John Timothy Schooley, the lead designer of the Verruckt waterslide, and Henry and Sons Construction Company Inc. with second-degree murder. The second indictment was unsealed today by Judge Robert Burns.

Other counts listed by the indictment against Henry, Schooley and the Henry and Sons Construction included five counts of aggravated endangering a child, and 12 counts of aggravated battery, based on injuries sustained by persons who were riding the Verruckt waterslide.

Henry was arrested March 26 in South Padre Island, Texas, by the U.S. Marshals Service, according to a news release from Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office. His next court appearance in Cameron County, Texas, District Court is scheduled for Thursday. Schooley is not in custody at this time.

The arrest and indictment follow on the heels of a grand jury indictment released on Friday of a former Schlitterbahn director of operations, Tyler Austin Miles, on charges of involuntary manslaughter. Miles pleaded not guilty. The indictment also charged Schlitterbahn as a corporation.

Besides involuntary manslaughter, Miles and the corporation also were indicted in connection with injuries sustained by 13 other persons, including four other minors, while riding the waterslide, according to the attorney general’s statement. Those charges include aggravated battery and aggravated endangering a child. In addition, Miles was indicted on two counts of interference with law enforcement, and Schlitterbahn was indicted on one count of interference with law enforcement.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office is handling the case, after a 19-month investigation was conducted. The charges will be prosecuted by the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, which assumed responsibility for the case in December 2016 at the request of the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office, according to a news release from the attorney general’s office. Charges contained in both indictments are merely accusations, and each defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

The Cameron County, Texas, inmate list on Monday showed Jeffrey Henry had been arrested on a Kansas warrant.

A Schlitterbahn spokeswoman released this statement Monday about developments: “Considering the allegations from Friday’s indictment, we were not surprised at the actions taken by the Attorney General to charge Jeff Henry. 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.”

The Schlitterbahn statement said on Monday that the indictment released last week against Miles and the Schlitterbahn corporation was “full of false information.” The indictment document against Henry was made public on Tuesday.

The Schlitterbahn statement also said, “We were shocked by the allegations being made by the Attorney General about Tyler and our KC park. The allegation that we operated, and failed to maintain, a ride that could foreseeably cause such a tragic accident is beyond the pale of speculation. Many of us, and our children and grandchildren, have ridden the ride with complete confidence as to its safety. Our operational mantra has been and will forever be Safety First.”

The Schlitterbahn statement continued, “Our legal team will be speaking out against each of the allegations point by point in the coming weeks and months. Rest assured, we stand behind our staff and all our parks. We will be fighting these charges aggressively. We know that Tyler is innocent and that we run a safe operation – our 40 years of entertaining millions of people speaks to that.

“We look forward to proving this in court where we know the facts will prove this was an accident.”

A Wyandotte County grand jury looked into the death of a 10-year-old boy, the son of a state legislator, who was riding the Verruckt waterslide and died after his raft went airborne, hitting a pole with nets attached. The boy was decapitatated.

The waterslide at the time was called the tallest in the world. Since the incident, the waterslide has been shut down.

The indictment released Friday against Miles is online at https://www.wycocourtks.org/cases.html.

Schlitterbahn’s attorneys will be answering the allegations point-by-point in the upcoming weeks and months, according to the spokeswoman.

Last week’s indictment also alleged that the former operations director and the Schlitterbahn Waterpark were concealing evidence from authorities.

“The accusation that we withheld information or altered evidence is completely false,” Schlitterbahn said in a statement.

A statement by Tyler Miles’ attorneys, Tom and Tricia Bath, denied that information was withheld. The statement is online at http://wyandottedaily.com/schlitterbahn-makes-statement-about-allegations-contained-in-indictment/.

The indictment against Henry, Schooley and Henry and Sons Construction is online at https://www.wycocourtks.org/uploads/4/4/1/2/4412070/indictment.pdf.

A Texas jail log detailed the booking of a Schlitterbahn co-owner in connection with a waterslide death in August 2016 in Kansas City, Kansas. Jeffrey W. Henry was charged with second-degree murder, aggravated endangering a child and aggravated battery in connection with the death on the waterslide and other injuries on the slide.

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