August 8, 2016

The Giant Verrückt Water Slide — at Schlitterbahn Kansas City — that killed a boy.

Here's a rider's eye view on a normal run:



Verrückt means "insane" in German, we're told in the article "‘Insane’ tragedy: Kansas boy dies on world’s tallest waterslide."
The boy was 10-year-old Caleb Schwab, the son of a state legislator. Police said the death appeared to be an accident. Park officials confirmed Schwab died while riding the Verruckt but did not say how....

Before it opened two years ago, the Verruckt had to be partially torn down and redesigned. According to USA Today, the changes were made after rafts flew off the slide at high speeds during test rides.

“It’s dangerous, but it’s a safe dangerous now,” ride co-creator and Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeff Henry told the newspaper in July 2014. “Schlitterbahn is a family water park, but this isn’t a family ride. It’s for the thrill seekers of the world, people into extreme adventure.”

53 comments:

David said...

At least there are no alligators in the landing pool.

Hagar said...

Verrueckt is German for "crazy."

madAsHell said...

“more than one water park guest” said the harnesses on the ride were not working Sunday.

In the video, I don't see any buckles on the harness. I'll assume they use velcro, or the buckle is on the seat, and holds the belt by friction. The ride is netted. If you do lose your seat, then you should be caught by the net. I'll guess the kid un-buckled his harness.

CJ said...

I read in the comments somewhere that the boy was decapitated somehow. Very sad.

natatomic said...

The restraints are velcro. Yeah, he could have undone them, but velcro isn't exactly impossible to come undone, especially with hundreds of uses a day coupled with the ejector air that causes people to lift up and push against the restraints.

And the net is held up by metal bars. In one photo, I saw a couple of the bars bent. I'm guessing the boy flew out, and at 60 mph, hitting a metal bar is definitely enough kill a person.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

‘We will see him another day’

That goes a long way to explain why I wish I could believe in that stuff.

YoungHegelian said...

I'm a big fan of water slides, and I've seen the problem of letting too young kids on slides at multiple parks. I've even seen where the kid goes down the slide, freaks out in the tube, & "stops" the raft with his hands in the tube. The staff then has to go down the tube to get him out, which is a slow process.

I watched the video, & the slide didn't look that harrowing. But, I'm an adult who done a lot of these things, & not some ten year kid. I'd never let a ten year old go on a ride that was designed to be "extreme" in any way.

Big Mike said...

Participants in the ride are supposed to be at least 4' 6" tall, and the total weight of the people on the raft has to be between 400 and 500 pounds. According to this chart the boy should have been tall enough. Were the velcro straps too loose? Ten is a little young for the teenaged-male-doing-something-stupid syndrome, so he probably didn't deliberately loosen the straps himself.

Will Cate said...

Looks like a lot of trouble to go through for a ride that lasts five seconds.

gspencer said...

Whenever I read the words "water slide," I'm immediately reminded of this episode of Homer Simpson stuck inside a water slide tube (50 seconds),

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zCgAkAP1Ec

MadisonMan said...

It doesn't look that interesting to me.

What a horrible thing for the family though. (shudder)

As the chief worrying officer in my family, thinking about this is now on my list.

MisterBuddwing said...

“It’s dangerous, but it’s a safe dangerous now..."

Not exactly a huge selling point, IMHO.

Quaestor said...

Verrückt indeed. But who? The park management (that'll be the contention of Scott Schwab's lawyers) or Caleb Schwab's parents?

YoungHegelian said...

@natatomic,

And the net is held up by metal bars.

Yes, I saw that too, and that is a different design. Generally, at the high speed points in a tube, the tube is completely enclosed so you have no other way to go other than down & out, even if you have fallen out of the tube. Here netting is used so that you get the feeling of height & of falling since you can see the open sky above you.

EDH said...

“Schlitterbahn is a family water park, but this isn’t a family ride. It’s for the thrill seekers of the world, people into extreme adventure.”

Here's Schlitterbahn's next ride, but you'll have to sign a waiver.

Ann Althouse said...

"In the video, I don't see any buckles on the harness. I'll assume they use velcro, or the buckle is on the seat, and holds the belt by friction. The ride is netted. If you do lose your seat, then you should be caught by the net. I'll guess the kid un-buckled his harness."

From the description, I think the boy became entangled in the net in a way that killed him, perhaps by strangling. The net is there in case the whole raft becomes airborne. The earlier USA Today article talks about that.

natatomic said...

Before everyone starts commenting that "that kid was too young to be on the ride," I just want to point out the fact that Disney's policy is that children must only be SEVEN years old to ride a ride alone (and that includes Tower of Terror, Expedition Everest, Dinosaur...i.e., all the "extreme" rides, including all water slides) and Universal's policy is that the child must just be at least 48" to ride alone (probably about the size of your average 7 year old).

Rides, no matter how extreme, are actually quite safe, and this was just an unfortunate accident (though I will admit it was likely due to a malfunction of the ride itself). But you have far greater chances of dying in the car on the way TO the waterpark or theme park than you do of dying on any ride, no matter how "extreme." So if a ten year old shouldn't be on this slide, that same ten year old also shouldn't be in a car. Too dangerous.

Ann Althouse said...

1. The boy was only 10.

2. "“Witnesses describe the boy going down the steep 168-foot drop of the world’s tallest water slide Sunday afternoon, then going airborne over the next hill, colliding with a safety net,” KSHB reported....

3. The net was added because of a know problem of the raft becoming airborne.

4. They used to have height, weight and age restrictions but then they removed them, but there was still a requirement that "each raft must have two or three riders weighing a combined 400 to 550 pounds, with no single rider over 300 pounds."

Those who are rushing to blame the boy should be embarrassed.

Freeman Hunt said...

I am guessing there wasn't enough weight, it went airborne, and the boy experienced head trauma on the bars or slide surface.

I think it is common to think, "This looks dangerous, but it must not be if it's an amusement park ride." This certainly checks that thought.

coupe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

From the USA Today article:

"Lying back in our raft, we're instructed not to lean forward or raise our arms under any circumstance, as the center of gravity offset could cause the raft to lift off the slide. This, and the fact that the ride's public opening has been delayed three times since Memorial Day because of test rafts and sandbags launching into the air and other technical problems, help me fully understand the expression cold feet..."...

""We had many issues on the engineering side," says Schlitterbahn Waterparks & Resorts co-owner Jeff Henry, who created Verrückt with Schlitterbahn senior designer John Schooley. "Our correction coefficients were all off. Models didn't show air and water friction. A lot of our math was based on roller coasters at first, and that didn't translate to a water slide like this. No one had ever done anything like this before."...

"Velcro seat belts lash riders to the raft, and netting encloses the chute to retain the raft in the unlikely event it goes flying. During early testing, rafts did just that. Test video shows rafts and sandbags ramping off the Hill and in some cases hitting and damaging the slide below. Rumors of test riders going airborne circulated on social media, but only sandbags were sacrificed. After three opening delays, the number of riders per raft was cut from four to three people, and it was determined that the total distributed weight can't exceed the 550 lbs. to prevent liftoff."

Interesting to think that it's making the raft heavier that makes it more likely to lift off.

Big Mike said...

As I wrote in my previous comment, ten is a bit young for the teenaged male "Hey! Watch me do this!" syndrome.

coupe said...

The idea is to scare you to within an inch of your life; however, the ruler is only marked in feet.

Owen said...

So. There is "dangerous," and then there is "safe dangerous." And "unsafe dangerous." And the difference is Velcro.

I would love to read the insurance policies for this "amusement park." Because something tells me that the family's lawyers are going to own them.

Freeman Hunt said...

"They used to have height, weight and age restrictions but then they removed them"

That seems stupid and not only in retrospect. I assume the restrictions were part of the ride design, constraints to make the physics work. I would want to know before riding if an engineer designed a ride a certain way and someone later changed it. Might be a point strongly pressed in a lawsuit.

The Cracker Emcee said...

Only in the Midwest would an umlaut figure in the name of an amusement park ride.

Freeman Hunt said...

"Lying back in our raft, we're instructed not to lean forward or raise our arms under any circumstance, as the center of gravity offset could cause the raft to lift off the slide..."

Okay, that is incredibly stupid. Who designs a ride for the public that depends on an absence of human error in a novel situation to not kill the riders? Absolutely moronic.

What is the family's last name? Will that be the new name of the park when they own it?

rhhardin said...

The raft isn't going to hold you down. It goes up when you do.

It looks like a tame ride to me. There's physics problems with it that are not part of the thrill, namely air forces on the raft.

The thrilling impression of height comes from a seen connection between you and the ground; lacking that, it's just a view.

AReasonableMan said...

The scariest ride I have ever gone on is the Zipper, a staple of traveling carnivals. It is not so much the ride itself but the people who run and presumably assemble and maintain the apparatus that strike fear into my heart. Yet, I find it irresistible.

Laslo Spatula said...

If only he was water-boarded he'd be alive right now.

And we would know all the secrets from his Elementary School.

I am Laslo.

Patrick said...

"Don't be a dummy Freeman."

What an obvious and maliciously willful misreading of Freeman Hunts comment.

JHapp said...

Netting held up by stiff bars makes no sense. Better would be a smooth tube all the way around and all the way down.

The Cracker Emcee said...

"The scariest ride I have ever gone on is the Zipper, a staple of traveling carnivals. It is not so much the ride itself but the people who run and presumably assemble and maintain the apparatus that strike fear into my heart."

No kidding. Where, outside of a carnival, would you find a potentially life-threatening, people-carrying, large piece of machinery, assembled and operated by vagabonds?

Paul Snively said...

"Our correction coefficients were all off. Models didn't show air and water friction. A lot of our math was based on roller coasters at first, and that didn't translate to a water slide like this."

I was doing more sophisticated work than this in high-school physics. Today, you'll find more accurate physics simulations in any AAA-title computer game using the PhysX or Havok engines.

OK, that's me venting my spleen. That said... I do not envy these engineers the crushing guilt, the nightmares... probably the counseling... they're likely experiencing.

Paul Snively said...

The Cracker Emcee: Only in the Midwest would an umlaut figure in the name of an amusement park ride.

Back when "What is your mother's maiden name?" was an SOP "security question" on various IT systems, and before modern OSes offered straightforward ways to type diacriticals, I used to be amused that I couldn't accurately answer the question. I had to make the same compromise my grandparents did when they went through Ellis Island, because there were no umlauts on their typewriters, either.

Static Ping said...

When the ride is outside, there are going to be confounding factors like air temperature, humidity, and wind that will impact the ride. It is difficult to test a ride like this thoroughly. Given the issues they had with the ride, I would not have let anyone on this thing without a waiver.

madAsHell said...

Those who are rushing to blame the boy should be embarrassed.

I was a boy. I did stupid stuff. Would I have loosened, or removed the harness because my buddies told me it would be more exciting? Yes!!

Static Ping said...

This reminds me of the old Action Park of my childhood. More information on it here:

Action Park @ Wikipedia

It was a general theme that their water park rides were dangerous in some way or another. The Tidal Wave Pool killed three people, which is ironic since it seemed one of the tamer things in the park. But the place had all sorts of fun: jumping off 20 foot cliffs into the water, tube rides that almost always resulted in collisions with other tubes and occasionally the tube finishing the ride without you, rides not well thought out for different sized riders resulting in some riders getting stuck and others slamming into walls or slower riders, something called the "Kamikaze." They even had a couple of slides like the one here, except without the second hump. The most iconic thing was the loop water slide which was only open occasionally since every time they re-opened it people would get hurt. It was the sort of place that if you left uninjured you were probably doing it wrong. It was a ton of fun.

The water slides were also infamous for collecting bikini tops and tampons. Laslo, you can steal that.

Live footage from its glory

Paul Snively said...

Dr. Althouse: Interesting to think that it's making the raft heavier that makes it more likely to lift off.

I keep telling people: you don't have to get to relativity or quantum mechanics for counterintuitive. There's plenty of counterintuitive in good ol' classical mechanics.

So we have some intuitively obvious notions, like "position" and "speed." In classical mechanics, these work exactly the way you think they do. To accurately describe motion, though, you need to add something to speed. That something is direction. When you add direction to speed, you get what we technically call velocity. Speed and velocity are both described in terms of change in position with respect to time, Δp/t. Very often, you want to know how velocity changes over time, Δp/t/t, "meters per second per second," or "meters per second squared," Δp/t^2. We call this "acceleration," and it turns out, according to Newton, to be pretty fundamental:

F = mΔp/t^2

Force equals mass times acceleration. It's a linear second-order differential equation. So when you know the forces (from any engines involved, from the initial launch "push," etc.) and the acceleration (from gravity, from being pulled by lanyards, etc.) you can solve for "p," position, at any given time "t." Because the equation is linear, "F" is proportional to "m," and what you'll find is that there is a value for "m," mass, such that the resulting value for "F" is large enough to overcome the opposing "F" from gravity (remember, the Δp/t^2 term includes direction). Given a large enough "m", the resulting "F" is large enough, and the raft "lifts off" instead of being pinned to the slide due to gravity (and ignoring aspects of momentum that matter to the computation, but don't change the salient point). The result:

the center of gravity offset could cause the raft to lift off the slide.

That is, there's more than one way for this center of gravity shift to happen. One is leaning forward or raising your arms. Another is to have enough mass in the first place for the force at certain points in the ride to overcome the force of gravity keeping you on the slide.

And now you know a little bit more about how a 10-year-old boy died, and I need a drink.

tam said...

So about a month ago, we went rafting on a river in Montana. Class 2, 3 and 4 rapids. About 1/2 way down, our raft hit a rock and capsized, dumping us in the river. We all followed directions and eventually got back in the raft.

My experience on the 2nd half of the ride was completely different than on the 1st. I commented that, up until our soaking, I was mentally treating the ride like an amusement park ride. I thought we had the illusion of danger, but were really quite safe. For the 2nd half, I realized that, indeed, we could go over at any time.

Given my fear of heights and etc, I'm not sure that I'd ever enjoy an amusement park without that presumption of safety.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Paul.

Bill Peschel said...

Paul, thanks for the quick lesson in force and velocity. I'm going to show this thread to my future engineer-son. I think he'll be fascinated by the math and physics.

This quote from the USAToday article really unnerved me: "No one had ever done anything like this before."...

Combine that with Paul's lesson that the heavier the raft the higher it will fly, and I would have reconsidered letting this go live (which is why I'm not a businessman).

Bill Peschel said...

I should have added that my future engineer-son is at work at Hersheypark. It'll give him something to think about as he's strapping riders into the Wild Mouse.

Titus said...

The ride takes like 5 seconds and the customers have to climb all those steps. Very sad.

I used to love to go to the carnival when I was little. I thought the guys working at the carnival were hot and kind of dirty looking. I was like 6.

holdfast said...

@Paul

I was wondering if there was also some sort of suction effect from the water that helped to stick the raft to the slide? If so, then adding more mass to the same-sized raft would make it easier to overcome that force.

holdfast said...

@Bill

My 7-year old was NOT taken with the Mouse. He thought it "felt" the most dangerous of all the rides he did, and he loved the Side Winder.

Wild Mouse - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_Mouse_(Hersheypark)

Side Winder - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidewinder_(Hersheypark)

Alan said...

"Only in the Midwest would an umlaut figure in the name of an amusement park ride."

Good assumption, but not correct in this case. Schlitterbahn ("slippery road") is a Texas born-and-bred institution, with the opening of their 1st park in New Braunfels on the Comal River in 1979. The names of rides and park sections often hearken to "Texas German"--"Blastenhoff", "Surfenburg", "Kinderhaven", etc.

New Braunfels is still by far the largest location, and is still the company's HQ. They opened in South Padre and Galveston before venturing out of state to Kansas City. They have a subsidiary that designs rides for water parks all over the world--not just for their own parks.

Paul Snively said...

holdfast (apropos name!): I was wondering if there was also some sort of suction effect from the water that helped to stick the raft to the slide? If so, then adding more mass to the same-sized raft would make it easier to overcome that force.

Yep: surface tension. I made the simplifying assumption—similarly to how I ignored momentum, although it's really momentum that explains how there is a force against gravity to begin with—that for the masses and surface areas in question we could almost certainly ignore it. Surface tension is how daddy long-legs spiders and other small animals walk on water, for example. It's (obviously) a very weak force that binds water molecules together.

Paul Snively said...

Bill Peschel: Paul, thanks for the quick lesson in force and velocity. I'm going to show this thread to my future engineer-son. I think he'll be fascinated by the math and physics.

On a lighter note, show him this :-)

The reference is to this, which is a truly astonishing piece of educational software, extremely cleverly disguised as a "game." Recommended to anyone and everyone who has ever uttered the phrase, "it ain't rocket science."

Paul Snively said...

Bill, before I forget: if your son is really deeply interested in mathematical physics, the most scarily comprehensive treatment of classical mechanics, even getting into some relativity and orbital mechanics, I'm aware of is New Foundations for Classical Mechanics. It ain't small and it ain't cheap. But many years after I sat in any physics classroom, it opened the subject up to me in ways no other exposition ever has.

Joe said...

Doesn't it bear repeating:

"KSHB reported that “more than one water park guest” said the harness on the ride was not working before the incident."

If true, this is gross criminal negligence by the park.

southcentralpa said...

"Verrueckt" could be translated as "crazy", but more in the sense of "wild" or (I think the young people still say)"off the hook" than any sense of clinical mental illness.

Sam's Hideout said...

I suspect while accounting for all the forces isn't easy, it comes down to air resistance. Gravity and friction forces (though the flowing water really makes things a lot more complicated) are mostly linearly related to mass of the raft and people. However, air resistance of a raft with a heavy person is probably not much more than the air resistance of a raft with a light person. (frontal area probably goes up with the cube root of mass so air resistance goes up with the cube root as well, rather sublinear). So the heavier raft likely accelerates faster. This is also why people make pinewood derby racers as close to the weight limit as they can, and why heavier people+bikes usually accelerate faster down a hill.