Co-owner of water park where 10-year-old was decapitated was suffering from drug problems and financial woes

Co-owner of water park where 10-year-old was decapitated was suffering from drug problems and financial woes
Jeff Henry, an owner of the Schlitterbahn water park (Wyandotte County Detention Center)

Jeffery Steven Henry, the co-owner of the Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts Park in Kansas City, was arrested in the tragic death by decapitation of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab on one of the water slides in the park. Henry has revealed that he was suffering from drug problems and financial problems before the accident.

The man had been arrested in the past, once in 1994 and then again in 2007, for drug violations. The San Antonio Express-News secured divorce court documents that showed that his then-wife Mary Henry and he were caught possessing almost 17oz of marijuana, a revolver, a derringer, and more than $7,000 in cash in 1994.

Henry had pleaded to third-degree felony and was subsequently sentenced to three years of deferred adjudication probation. This was later canceled after just 16 months and then he was fined $10,000. He pleaded guilty to the 2nd arrest for the misdemeanour for possessing between 2-4oz of marijuana. He was fined $4,000 for this.

After this came a series of financial problems. Express-News reported that there was a disagreement between Henry and his brother, Gary Henry, along with their business partner, Schexnailder, over a new project they were working on which eventually led to the group filing for bankruptcy in spring 2017.

The group had wanted to expand North Padre Island and this led to the Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings that have been plaguing them since last year and this put the new development up for auction.

In the third time in his life, Henry, along with the ride designer John Schooley, have been charged with reckless 2nd-degree murder in the death of Caleb Schwab in August 2016. The child ended up being decapitated when his raft took flight while he was on the world's largest water slide, the 170-foot Verrückta.

Last week, a grand jury also indicted Tyler Austin Miles, the park's former chief operations officer, on 20 felony charges that included involuntary manslaughter.

The company, which has been revealed as the private construction company of the water park, Henry & Sons Construction Co, has been charged with reckless second-degree murder and this has a sentence of 9 to 41 years in prison.

Schlitterbahn has itself faced hot water when several charges were filed in connection with 13 other people who were injured while they were riding the slide. The ride has since been shut down in the park.  

According to Miles' attorney, he has been released on a $50,000 bond while Henry, who was charged with aggravated battery and child endangerment, is still being help without bond. Prosecutors have said that Schooley is currently not in police custody.

The State of Kansas is going to conduct a complete audit of the park's inspection records before it opens for its annual season on May 25. 

Barbara Hersh, the spokesperson for the Kansas Department of Labor, said that Schlitterbahn is supposed to have qualified inspectors who look into its rides on a daily basis and that the management of the park is supposed to be keeping these reports. 

Hersh has said that the department will make sure these inspections have been done so far. In a statement that was issued by the park's management, they described Schwab's death as a "terrible and tragic accident". 

The statement also said that Henry, Schooley, and Miles are "innocent" in this incident and it has also said that the company runs a "safe operation".

Schwab passed away when the raft that he was on went airborne and he ended up hitting the overhead loop. It was revealed that the employees who work at the attraction had told the executives that the water slide's malfunctioning brakes had failed at least 29 times till that point.

Footage of Henry saying that the 170-feet Verrückta, which ended up killing the 10-year-old and seriously injuring 2 women, was the "safest ever ride built".

In an interview with Good Morning America in 2014, the interviewer had asked Henry on the grand opening day of the ride: "So you're saying it is safe?" Just a week before the grand unveiling of the ride, an engineering firm was hired by the company to test the safety of the ride.

The tests that were performed had shown that the rafts on the ride were very likely to fly if they were carrying weights of 400 to 550lbs. This was extremely dangerous as the slide had been covered with a net that was suspended by metal hoops. This meant that any rider could knock into it if their raft went airborne.

The indictment has also noted that this was in direct violation of international standards that prohibits a ride from obstructing a rider's path. The indictment said that the attraction was a "deadly weapon".

The indictment states: "Henry and Schooley did the opposite. They installed metal bars directly across the known flight path."

"The presence of the overheard netting and support hoops speaks volumes about the designers' extreme disregard for the value of human life."

Ten-year-old Schwab was decapitated when the raft that he was in crashed into the hoops and the two women he was in the raft with suffered fractures to their bones and lacerations.

According to the indictment, Henry was very aware of the problem the ride had with it and that he tried to fix it before it was opened to the public. It was also claimed that he ignored the problem completely later.

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