The co-owner of a water park where a 10-year-old boy was decapitated was suffering from drug problems and financial woes before the tragic accident.
Jeffrey Steven Henry, co-owner Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts park in Kansas City, has been arrested twice for drug violations, once in 1994 and once in 2007.
In the first arrest, he and his then-wife Mary Henry, were caught possessing nearly 17 ounces of pot, a revolver, a derringer and more than $7,000 in cash, according to divorce court records, obtained by the San Antonio Express- News.
Henry pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony and was sentenced to three years deferred adjudication probation- which was terminated after 16 months and fined $10,000.
After the second arrest, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for possessing between two and four ounces of marijuana and was fined $4,000.
Then there were financial woes. According to the Express-News, a feud between Jeff and Gary Henry and their business partner Schexnailder over a new development ultimately led last spring to the group’s bankruptcy filing.
The potential expansion to North Padre Island led to Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings since last year and the development on the auction block.
Now Henry and ride designer John Schooley are charged with reckless second-degree murder in the August 2016 death of Caleb Schwab, who was decapitated when his raft went airborne on the world’s largest water slide.
A grand jury last week also indicted the park and its former chief operations officer, Tyler Austin Miles, on 20 felony charges, including involuntary manslaughter.
Henry & Sons Construction Co, which is described as the private construction company of Schlitterbahn, is charged with reckless second-degree murder, which carries a sentence of 9 years to 41 years in prison.
Schlitterbahn itself faces several other charges in connection to the 13 other people who were injured while riding the slide, which has since been shut down.
Kansas said it will conduct a full audit of the inspection records at Schlitterbahn before its annual season opens on May 25.
Kansas Department of Labor spokeswoman Barbara Hersh said the park is required to have qualified inspectors examine its rides daily and to keep reports on those inspections. She said the department will ensure that the inspections have been done.
Schlitterbahn described Caleb’s death as a ‘terrible and tragic accident’ in a statement.
It says Henry, Schooley and Miles are ‘innocent’ and that the company runs a ‘safe operation.’
Caleb died when his raft went airborne and he hit an overhead loop.
It recently emerged that employees at the attraction warned executives about the water slide’s faulty brakes that failed at least 29 times.
Footage has also emerged of Henry saying the 170-foot Verrückta that took the life of Schwab, was the ‘safest ever ride built’.
In the 2014 interview with Good Morning America, the interviewer asked Henry on the ride’s opening day, ‘So you’re saying it is safe?,’ while speaking of the world’s tallest slide constructed at his park.
The indictment claims that Henry was well aware of this problem and tried to fix it before eventually ignoring it entirely
The tests showed that, when carrying a weight of 400 to 550lbs, the rafts on the slide were likely to go airborne.
This was especially dangerous as the slide was covered with a net suspended by metal hoops, meaning riders could knock into them if the raft went airborne.
The indictment notes that this is in violation of international standards that prohibit a ride from obstructing a rider’s path. It described the attraction as ‘a deadly weapon’.
‘Henry and Schooley did the opposite,’ the indictment states. ‘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.’
Schwab was decapitated when his raft collided with the hoops, and two women he was riding with suffered bone fractures and lacerations.
The indictment claims that Henry was well aware of this problem and tried to fix it before eventually ignoring it entirely.