Schlitterbahn makes statement about allegations contained in indictment

Schlitterbahn says it will fight allegations made against it in an indictment last week in Wyandotte County. The case involves a 10-year-old boy who died in August 2016 while riding the Verruckt waterslide. (Wyandotte Daily file photo)

Schlitterbahn today issued a statement that says the company will fight allegations of involuntary manslaughter against the corporation and against its former director of operations.

An indictment was released last Friday in the case involving the death of a 10-year-old boy in August 2016 on the Verruckt ride at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City, Kansas.

Former Schlitterbahn director of operations, Tyler Austin Miles, pleaded not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter. The indictment also charged Schlitterbahn as a corporation.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office is handling the case, after a 19-month investigation was conducted.

A Schlitterbahn spokeswoman released a statement today saying the indictment released last week was “full of false information.”

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.”

On Friday, the indictment listed injuries sustained by 13 other persons, including four other minors, while riding the Verruckt waterslide, according to a statement from the attorney general’s office.

The 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 last week alleged that the ride was never properly or fully designed to prevent rafts from going airborne.

The indictment alleged that the ride’s designers originally considered preventing children from riding the Verruckt, and planned at an age limit of 14, but then the age restriction was eliminated, allowing younger children to ride. The investigators looked into whether the weights of the passengers had an effect on whether the ride would go airborne, with apparently lighter weights more prone to launching into the air.

The indictment last week alleged that the hook-and-loop passenger restraints were not analyzed for their effectiveness in restraining passengers on a ride like the Verruckt, and that they were improper, defective and improperly maintained. The proper restraint would be rigid overhead shoulder bars with a locking lap restraint, according to language in the indictment.

Additionally, the placement of netting and support hoops above the ride path was defective and ultimately lethal, the indictment alleged.

Schlitterbahn’s attorneys will be answering the allegations point-by-point in the upcoming weeks and months, according to the company 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. “We have operated with integrity from day one at the waterpark – as we do throughout our waterparks and resorts. We put our guests and employees safety first; and safety and maintenance are at the top of our list of priorities.”

“Since the date of the incident we have worked closely with law enforcement; at no time have we withheld evidence; at no time have we altered evidence,” the Schlitterbahn statement continued. “The indictment uses quoted statements from a reality TV show that was scripted for dramatic effect that in no way reflects the design and construction of the ride. Quotes were purported to be from definitive design meetings, when they were, in fact, ‘acting.’

“During the civil matter, attorneys involved noted that we cooperated fully, provided thousands of documents, and that nothing was withheld or tampered with. The secret Grand Jury never heard one word from us directly, nor were we allowed to provide contradictory evidence. And we have plenty,” the Schlitterbahn statement continued.

Tyler Miles’ attorneys, Tom and Tricia Bath, have released this statement:

“The suggestions that C.S.’s death was foreseeable to Tyler Miles, that, with this knowledge Tyler ‘avoided or delayed repairs,’ and that Tyler ‘had covered up similar incidents’ are simply not true. 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. These are not the actions of someone who believed the ride to be dangerous.

“The allegation that Tyler knowingly obstructed the investigation is, likewise, false. From the moment of the accident, and continuing until the charges were filed, Tyler cooperated with law enforcement. He did not hide or destroy documents.

“The Constitution requires that an Indictment be based upon legal evidence – not speculation or conjecture. This Indictment is based upon Grand Jury proceedings, which are conducted in secret. While neither we nor the public have had an opportunity to see transcripts of Grand Jury witness testimony, the Indictment is littered with references to evidence that is not legal.

“Only after Tyler is able to obtain transcripts, witness statements and police reports will he, like any citizen, be in a position to fully address these allegations. What we know is that Tyler is innocent, which is why he insisted, at his first court appearance, that we set the matter for jury trial. We look forward to the opportunity to challenge the evidence, in a public forum, and prove Tyler’s innocence.”

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

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