Friday, March 23, 2018

What the Bible Says to Schlitterbahn, and Why They Should Be Held Responsible for a Boy's Death


Earlier today, a former Schlitterbahn executive was charged with involuntary manslaughter regarding the death of a ten-year-old boy who died in 2016 on their famous water slide called Verruckt, once billed "the tallest water slide in the world."

The ride is similar to a log flume that you see in most large fun-parks: several persons board a boat that drops down a couple steep watery slopes. Big splash at the end, fun had by all. But in the case of Verruckt, the "boat" that persons get into is a multi-seat raft that sits more on the surface of the water than in the water. This poses a higher danger than a log flume ride.

How dangerous? Well, the ride has netting over the slide to keep riders from being thrown off if the raft, which reaches speeds of 70 mph (112 kph), should go airborne. There were stories of rafts flying into the air when the ride was being tested, hence why netting was installed. (Seen above. I haven't been on the ride, but I've driven by it. It's on the Kansas side of Kansas City just two hours from where I live.)

What happened when the boy died was the raft he was in flew into the air, he hit one of the support hoops holding up the netting, and he was decapitated. It's an incredible and horrible tragedy, and it is right that Schlitterbahn is being held responsible.

Some are saying Schlitterbahn shouldn't be charged with wrongdoing. I saw one comment on Twitter where a man said they should just put up signs that say "Danger" and "Ride at your own risk," and that should be enough. Another gentleman said something to the effect of, "Why is this executive being charged for involuntary manslaughter? It was an accident! People know the risks of riding thrill rides. He didn't do anything criminal!"

Schlitterbahn is standing by their executive being charged with involuntary manslaughter, a felony in the state of Kansas. "He was conscientious and committed to providing visitors to the water park a safe and enjoyable experience," a spokeswoman with the company said. "We stand by him and are shocked by these allegations."

But Schlitterbahn should be held accountable. God's word, the Bible, has said so.

Deuteronomy 22:8 says, "When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it." God's judgments are always good and always pure.

Someone might say, "Well that has to do with a roof on someone's house, not a thrill ride!" Maybe so, but I think you can recognize the principle. The builder is responsible for the safety of everyone who uses the structure he has built. A roof in ancient Israel was as much a usable part of the house as anywhere inside. Builders needed to take necessary precautions to ensure people who used the roof didn't accidentally fall to their death.

Someone else might argue, "But Schlitterbahn did build a 'parapet!' They had netting over the ride to prevent someone from falling off!" I think you would agree a parapet on a roof and netting on a thrill ride are not the same thing. When someone hits a pole going 70 mph, they will likely die, and all the netting will do is keep their lifeless body from being thrown from the ride that killed them.

Now, I'm not a judge or a juror in this case -- there are many details I'm not familiar with and I don't know to what extent Schlitterbahn is at fault (it's unquestionable, in my view, that they are at least somewhat at fault). I'm simply making the point that from a biblical perspective, you can be guilty of involuntary manslaughter for building an unsafe structure that results in someone's death, even if it was an accident.

Of course, there are many cases where this concept has been abused and resulted in frivolous lawsuits. But the principle still stands. If you want to build the tallest water slide, you are responsible to ensure the safety of everyone who rides your ride. If you're going to tell people it's safe, a customer can safely believe they won't get decapitated if they ride it.

Fortunately, Verruckt is scheduled for demolition. It is clearly an unsafe ride, and it's insensitive for Schlitterbahn to say they're "committed to providing visitors to the water-park a safe and enjoyable experience" when a person got decapitated. They need to belly-up to the bar of justice and admit they got this one wrong.

My heart breaks for the family who lost their little boy. I pray that the Lord will heal them even as this case goes to court. I also pray that the executive being charged will take responsibility for what happened, as well as anyone else at Schlitterbahn who might be liable.

We live in a fallen world, full of death and tragedy because of our sin. Pray that the Lord Jesus will come quickly. All who believe in Him will be forgiven and spared the righteous judgment of God. "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more" (Revelation 21:4).