The death of a 10 year old boy from Kansas while riding the world’s tallest water slide has revived a call for change in the amusement park industry. Many advocates say there is a lack in federal oversight of our nation’s water park safety.
The ten year old boy was killed while sliding down the 168 foot tall water slide located in Kansas City. Details surrounding his death remain unclear. Some witnesses that rode the ride earlier in the day say the harnesses to the ride were not working properly. It appears the boy fell out of the raft and slid down the slide himself and was decapitated. This is a horrific tragedy.
The police said the boy was decapitated in the accident and was found dead at the bottom of the ride in a pool. The two other passengers both suffered minor cuts and scrapes on their face in the incident, according to authorities.
The water slide’s website says “two to three riders per raft, who must weigh a combined 400 to 550 pounds, are shot down a 17-story drop before they are “blasted back up a second massive hill and then sent down yet another gut wrenching 50 foot drop for the ultimate in water slide thrills.Riders have to be at least 54 inches tall to ride, and they’re strapped across the waist and shoulders as their raft reaches speeds of 60 to 70 mph.
There is no single federal agency responsible for enforcing rules and regulations at water parks. A local newspaper filed an open records request for inspection history at the Kansas City water park. The request did not reveal any state inspections after the slide opened in 2014.
The state’s labor department allows amusement water parks to perform its own safety inspections using inspectors licensed by the national association of amusement ride safety officials. The state labor department has requested the Kansas City water park inspection paperwork after the death to ensure all safety requirements have been followed.
Advocates said the lack of federal oversight means issues with water park regulation aren’t limited to Kansas. Regulations vary by state—some let the amusement parks handle safety internally, while others leave responsibility up to county or state-certified inspectors, according to Jason Herrera, director of the Amusement Safety Organization, which has been tracking amusement ride injuries nationwide since 2000. “They need to bridge that gap,” he said. Herrera encouraged federal oversight, but said such a program would be expensive and would be unwelcomed by the amusement park industry. “I don’t see it ever coming into fruition.”
Parents are assuming their children are safe when using rides at water parks. Unfortunately, this is not always true. Perhaps this tragedy will cause some good by ensuring accidents like this do not happen again.