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Earlier this month, USA Today placed the Verruckt water side at Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City, Kansas, on the top of its list of the “13 Best Outdoor Water Park Rides” in America. “Insanity,” the newspaper proclaimed of the attraction, which is the world’s largest water slide, dropping riders by 17 floors in a few terrifying seconds.
On Sunday, a few days after that article appeared, Caleb Schwab, the 10-year-old son of a Kansas state legislator, died on that ride. The circumstances of his death are still murky, though one Kansas City television station is reporting that parkgoers claim the ride’s harness wasn’t working properly. One thing, however, is almost certain: the dismal state of amusement park regulations in the United States, which allow attractions in Kansas and many other states to effectively evade any serious government safety oversight.
Even as amusement rides are getting more terrifying and death-defying by the year, the amusement park industry actively fights attempts at increased regulation. According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, surveys reveal that 4 out of 5 of its member organizations say they view “state regulation as the biggest threat to their businesses.”