Women with boy in ill-fated waterslide raft speak out

Caleb Schwab, 10, was killed while on the world’s tallest water slide at a Kansas City, Kansas, water park.

Family photo

Last Updated Aug 18, 2016 10:50 AM EDT

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Two women who were in the ill-fated raft where a 10-year-old boy was killed on the world’s tallest waterslide joined the boy’s father in hoping that unfolding investigations prevent any such tragedy from happening again.

Caleb Schwab died Aug. 7 on the 168-foot tall “Verruckt” ride at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City, Kansas. The tragedy also injured the raft’s two other occupants - Hannah Barnes, 32, and Matraca Baetz, 25.

Barnes and Baetz issued a statement through their attorney.

“Being mothers ourselves, we can only hope that Caleb’s family can find some comfort in knowing we are doing everything we know how to do to stop something so tragic from occurring again to any other family,” the women’s statement said.

The women, who are sisters, reportedly suffered facial injuries, including a broken jaw, CBS affiliate KCTV reports.

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Their attorney, Lynn Johnson, told The Associated Press that Barnes and Baetz “want answers and assurances from Schlitterbahn that that slide will be corrected or not continue to be in operation.”

“If necessary, there will be litigation,” he said, adding that “we have not had the opportunity to have our experts inspect the Verruckt or see the (ride’s design) drawings.”

In a statement released by the Schwab family’s lawyer, Caleb’s father Scott Schwab said “words will never convey the appreciation” the Schwabs have for the public outpouring since his son’s death.

“’Thank You’ seems so inadequate to express our appreciation, but it is the only phrase we have. So, from the depths of our hearts, we thank you,” Schwab, a Republican lawmaker from Olathe, Kansas, said in the statement, first reported by the Kansas City Star.

“While we try to step forward into the new normal of life without Caleb in our presence, we find hope with the current investigation into the incident to provide answers and assurances that such tragedy will not strike again.”

Michael Rader, a partner in the law firm hired by the Schwabs, said Schlitterbahn has cooperated with his independent investigation of the tragedy.

“I can say that my firm and I along with our team of experts are doing everything in our power to ensure that all questions surrounding the cause of this tragedy are fully answered,” Rader wrote.

Cameron Morgan, a police spokesman, said Tuesday that it’s unclear when the investigation will be completed and any findings released.

Verruckt - German for “insane” - features multi-person rafts that make a 168-foot drop at speeds of up to 70 mph, followed by a surge up a hump and a 50-foot descent to a finishing pool.

Riders, who must be at least 54 inches tall, are harnessed with two nylon seatbelt-like straps - one that crosses the rider’s lap, the other stretching diagonally like a car shoulder seatbelt. Each strap is held in place by long straps that close with fabric fasteners, not buckles. Riders hold ropes inside the raft.

Riders are weighed to ensure each raft carries between 400 pounds and 550 pounds.

Police on Monday released a report showing one rider at 140 pounds, another at 170, and an unclear weight for Caleb, who would have had to weigh 90 pounds to make the trio’s weight reach 400 pounds. But police said weights taken at a hospital after the accident show one person weighed 275 pounds, another 197 pounds and a third 73 pounds, putting the combined weight at 545 pounds.