Schlitterbahn rides would have more state oversight under House bill

Legislators are discussing changes to Kansas laws following a water slide death at the Schlitterbahn park in Kansas City, Kansas, in August 2016. (Wyandotte Daily file photo)

A bill that received preliminary approval in the Kansas House on Thursday would increase state oversight on amusement park rides.

The bill, which received preliminary voice approval, is expected to pass next week on a final vote in the House, then would go to the Senate for consideration.

The bill comes in the wake of a fatal Schlitterbahn water park ride accident in Kansas City, Kansas, in which the son of an influential Republican legislator died in August 2016. Caleb Schwab, age 10, was killed while riding the Verruckt, the world’s tallest water slide, at Schlitterbahn. The ride has been closed since the accident, and Schlitterbahn has announced it will disassemble the ride once the legal process involving the accident is completed.

Rep. Tom Burroughs, D-33rd Dist., in whose district the Schlitterbahn water park is located, said Rep. Scott Schwab gave a very impassioned presentation on the bill Thursday. Rep. Schwab stated it was necessary for the state to have an inspection process so no other family would have to suffer the consequences that the Schwab family did.

Rep. Burroughs said he voted in favor of the bill on Thursday, and he expects it to pass by a large majority. The bill originated with Rep. John Barker, a Republican from Abilene, and the House Committee on Federal and State Affairs.

Rep. Burroughs said the bill would regulate the industry to the extent that the rides would be inspected. It also brings Kansas into line with neighboring states that have an inspection process on rides, inflatables and amusement parks, he said.

If it passes, the bill will put documents in place, and will encourage a concerted effort by the facility itself to have the rides inspected on an annual basis, he added. It should give consumers a sense of comfort, he said.

The rides will be inspected once a year by an engineer hired by the insurance companies that insure the amusement parks, under the bill. There is a provision that requires injuries on rides to be reported, and the state may inspect the ride if there is an injury. Also, there is a provision for fees to be collected from amusement parks, and permits to be issued. The state Labor Department will be authorized to conduct random inspections, under the bill.

The attention drawn to it will encourage amusement parks to take additional steps to ensure the safety of visitors, Rep. Burroughs said.