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Accidental death at Schlitterbahn in Kansas City.


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If you look at the indictment, the charge is actually involuntary manslaughter, not murder. I think that's the appropriate charge. He wasn't trying to kill the kid, he just didn't care if someone died.

 

The indictment last week didn't charge Henry so there is an unreleased one for his charges.

 

That said it's probably manslaughter too.

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I would caution anybody from reading too much into an indictment. There is an old saying that a good prosecutor could indict a ham sandwich. I can also tell you that in my experience, indictments are always going to sound pretty awful, they are after all a list of charges.

 

There are a few things to keep in mind when reading it. Now before I start, I should point out that my area of expertise is criminal law in Texas, however, these things tend to be pretty universal throughout the Country (with some exceptions). The first thing to understand is the very basics of how the grand jury works. The entire thing is controlled by the State, there is a relatively limited amount that the defense can do, if anything at all. Unless the District Attorney specifically invites a defense attorney to Grand Jury, they don't even have the right to be in the room. In the past 8 years of practicing, I've been invited once, it is exceptionally rare.

 

Likewise, keep in mind that the burdens are different. Everybody knows that for a criminal trial we are dealing with beyond a reasonable doubt. During grand jury, the burden drops to a much easier to obtain level of probable cause. The biggest concern I would have is a large number of counts. Anytime you exceed 20 or so counts, it's a clue that the State is out for blood. In this case, they are right on that line.

 

As far as hearing anything directly from Mr. Henry, like an apology, if he were my client I would be very strongly encouraging him to shut up and not say a word to anybody. Talking is literally the worst thing somebody can do when facing criminal charges. As for Schlitterbahn, their best move to distance themselves as quickly as possible from all of this. What's good for the company is probably not good for Jeff Henry.

 

Purely speculating from my experience, I would bet that the State is really only interested in that first count. The rest of the counts are leverage. I wouldn't be at all surprised if you see a situation where there is ultimately a plea agreement on Count 1 with a dismissal of the other 19 counts. That is a pretty common tactic as it gives the State some flexibility in case of an unexpected acquittal on some of the charges. During negotiations, the State can use the extra charges to justify making a higher offer.

 

Finally, I will say that this is the most detailed indictment I have ever seen. Normally indictments are, intentionally, pretty bare bone.

Edited by AllenA07
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Back in 2014 I think, The now defunct website Grantland.com published a piece about Jeff Henry and the founder of Wet n Wild "The Men Who Built the Great American Waterpark". I loved reading the piece 4 years ago, the author's description of Henry at the time made him sound like kind of a loose shoot from the hip fun kinda cowboy “What’s really interesting about my family is, we don’t really work for the shareholders,” he said. “We actually work for the people who buy our tickets …”, but looking back on it comes off a little differently.

 

The article is still available, check it out if you want.

 

grantland.com/features/the-wet-stuff-verruckt-waterslide-schlitterbahn/

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http://www.kansascity.com/news/article206886324.html

 

It appears Jeff Henry is being charged with murder, presumably in the second degree. Hoooboy.

 

If you follow the Twitter feed linked here they give the Kansas statute. It does look like based on the wording of that statute that they could charge 2nd degree murder. Being as his name is all over the design from start to finish, charging him with the higher offense makes sense. Then charge manslaughter to Miles as he allegedly covered the injuries up and doctored reports but didn't have part in building this ride.

 

On another note, I read an article that quoted a former lifeguard as saying that part of the pre-opening routine was to have people ride the slide 3 times. He stated that no one wanted to volunteer. Ever. That people were kind of drafted to do this. The one time he did, the raft hit the concrete wall at the end of the runout pool and he was injured. He didn't return to employment that next summer. If this is true there are likely more former employees to corroborate that and it doesn't look good for the defendants.

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I would caution anybody from reading too much into an indictment. There is an old saying that a good prosecutor could indict a ham sandwich. I can also tell you that in my experience, indictments are always going to sound pretty awful, they are after all a list of charges.

 

There are a few things to keep in mind when reading it. Now before I start, I should point out that my area of expertise is criminal law in Texas, however, these things tend to be pretty universal throughout the Country (with some exceptions). The first thing to understand is the very basics of how the grand jury works. The entire thing is controlled by the State, there is a relatively limited amount that the defense can do, if anything at all. Unless the District Attorney specifically invites a defense attorney to Grand Jury, they don't even have the right to be in the room. In the past 8 years of practicing, I've been invited once, it is exceptionally rare.

 

Likewise, keep in mind that the burdens are different. Everybody knows that for a criminal trial we are dealing with beyond a reasonable doubt. During grand jury, the burden drops to a much easier to obtain a preponderance of a doubt. That's the same level that we have in civil cases. The biggest concern I would have is a large number of counts. Anytime you exceed 20 or so counts, it's a clue that the State is out for blood. In this case, they are right on that line.

 

As far as hearing anything directly from Mr. Henry, like an apology, if he were my client I would be very strongly encouraging him to shut up and not say a word to anybody. Talking is literally the worst thing somebody can do when facing criminal charges. As for Schlitterbahn, their best move to distance themselves as quickly as possible from all of this. What's good for the company is probably not good for Jeff Henry.

 

Purely speculating from my experience, I would bet that the State is really only interested that first count. The rest of the counts are leverage. I wouldn't be at all surprised if you see a situation where there is ultimately a plea agreement on Count 1 with a dismissal of the other 19 counts. That is a pretty common tactic as it gives the State some flexibility in case of an unexpected acquittal on some of the charges. During negotiations, the State can use the extra charges to justify making a higher offer.

 

Finally, I will say that this is the most detailed indictment I have ever seen. Normally indictments are, intentionally, pretty bare bone.

 

Thanks for your legal insight on this. That all makes a lot of sense. It's pretty obvious that they know they are in a lot of trouble and where using the press release to start communicating a defense. I don't believe they wanted to kill anyone but this information is damning to them in an argument that they did seem to care more about reputation and profits that opening and keeping this ride open would give them....then in providing a safe ride for their customers.

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Back in 2014 I think, The now defunct website Grantland.com published a piece about Jeff Henry and the founder of Wet n Wild "The Men Who Built the Great American Waterpark". I loved reading the piece 4 years ago, the author's description of Henry at the time made him sound like kind of a loose shoot from the hip fun kinda cowboy “What’s really interesting about my family is, we don’t really work for the shareholders,” he said. “We actually work for the people who buy our tickets …”, but looking back on it comes off a little differently.

 

The article is still available, check it out if you want.

 

grantland.com/features/the-wet-stuff-verruckt-waterslide-schlitterbahn/

 

Last paragraph....wonder why he didn't have any engineers help him....seems like he got overconfident and it caused an unsafe ride.

 

“I don’t really care at all about the manufacturing side of the industry,” Henry said. “They’re a bunch of losers, anyways. My friends that run the parks, own the parks, and build the parks — they’re good guys and they matter.” He looked up at his slide and said, “This just gives ’em another reason to live.

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Back in 2014 I think, The now defunct website Grantland.com published a piece about Jeff Henry and the founder of Wet n Wild "The Men Who Built the Great American Waterpark". I loved reading the piece 4 years ago, the author's description of Henry at the time made him sound like kind of a loose shoot from the hip fun kinda cowboy “What’s really interesting about my family is, we don’t really work for the shareholders,” he said. “We actually work for the people who buy our tickets …”, but looking back on it comes off a little differently.

 

The article is still available, check it out if you want.

 

grantland.com/features/the-wet-stuff-verruckt-waterslide-schlitterbahn/

 

Very interesting read! Thanks for sharing!

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As much of a horrible tragedy as this is, I just want to say kudos for the TPR members for keeping it civil on here and not posting a bunch of stupid crap. There have been a lot of very intelligent and well written posts in this thread - another reason why I like this site so much.

 

Of course, I know that the mods wouldn't allow a lot of stupid crap to be posted so I laud them for that as well.

 

Keep it up guys and gals!

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I agree, and I was actually very surprised to hear from multiple credible people on this forum speak up (this goes especially to AllenA07).

 

I remember reading that Grantland article some years ago. It's actually incredibly insightful into the history of water parks in the U.S. as well as Jeff's background info. Very well written, despite recent events and light being shed into some very dark areas.

 

This whole case unwrapping itself is such a train wreck to see, regardless of the final outcome.

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There is so much shady crap that goes on in this industry. Some of the stories I've heard through the years just disgust me. I'm so happy all of this has caught up with the guy and he gets everything that is coming to him.

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There is so much shady crap that goes on in this industry. Some of the stories I've heard through the years just disgust me. I'm so happy all of this has caught up with the guy and he gets everything that is coming to him.

 

I remember joking with a friend of mine that the Williams Grove Cyclone's wildest moment was on a straight piece of flat track. He just shook his head at me. "You know that's because there was a broken crossmember they never fixed, right?" Literally the piece of wood running between the rails had snapped in half and was bending under the extreme weight of the train, causing the train to violently bounce. I just thought it was "character" - turns out the ride could have derailed in comical fashion and caused serious injury or death. That was an instructive moment where I realized how little it was I knew and how much faith I was putting into chain smoking, hard living ex-car mechanics and HVAC guys to keep me from dying.

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The second indictment has been unsealed, and, indeed, it's second-degree murder. It certainly appears that Derek Schmidt is out for blood.

You always go with the highest possible charge so that even if there is a plea bargain the next highest charge will still be a significant one, likely worthy of prison time. Aim high.

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That was an instructive moment where I realized how little it was I knew and how much faith I was putting into chain smoking, hard living ex-car mechanics and HVAC guys to keep me from dying.

Yep. I always have to remember that amusement parks are mainly just carnies that dress better.

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There is so much shady crap that goes on in this industry. Some of the stories I've heard through the years just disgust me. I'm so happy all of this has caught up with the guy and he gets everything that is coming to him.

 

I have seen similar shady things go on in my industry to the point where I have been totally disgusted and thought many times of just moving onto something totally different. Michael and I have discussions about this on what seems to be a nightly basis anymore, but it's also scary to think of packing it in and starting all over when I am beyond mid-career.

 

My latest crazy, mid-life crisis idea is to quit my job, sell the house & move to Florida where I search for something that I really want to do. I don't give a crap if it's weaving baskets from palm fronds on the beach as long as I can make an honest living, live in a decent home and we can just be happy and warm!

 

Michael survived a very courageous battle with cancer in the past year and I feel bad that he has to "enjoy" his retirement living in such a cold, unwelcome area (at least six months out of the year, anyway) while I work in a job that is literally starting to have some ill effects on my health.

 

It's a dog eat dog world out there in Corporate America where anyone will do anything to make a name for themselves and get paid well in the process. It is honestly sickening to be part of that "machine" a lot of the time anymore.

 

I don't "hate" my job, because my role is to satisfy customers - and I try to do just that on a daily basis. But it's getting harder when quality is sometimes sacrificed for profitability and volume and then I have to be the one to clean up the mess and explain the "quality spills and how/why they happened & what we've done to fix them" to the customers. And root cause usually ends up mostly being due to either design changes for cost savings, someone from Purchasing that has no f&cking clue and sources a sketchy parts supplier, or shoddy engineering due to inexperience.

 

And if this is the kind of crap that is going on in the amusement industry where people could get killed as a result...that is VERY frightening!

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We'll see what happens. The burden of proof lies heavily on the state. As the article said, it will be difficult for the State to prove this. The state comes out hard with their facts and the defense can't afford to reveal their cards. Often times this makes the accused party appear guilty before the trial, when the defense could have substantial evidence in their favor. These are accusations with little information from the defense. From a publicity standpoint, this always presents an uphill battle. The verdict will tell the real story. Anything up until that point is a bit premature, but I know all too well that accusations are enough in modern times. Especially when the press is looking to make a buck.

 

Just my $.02 based on my experience working with prosecutors and also being a victim in a falsely accused lawsuit. Our local media made it sound like several of our officers mercilessly beat the sh** out of a suspect. I was named in the lawsuit, despite not even being present during the altercation and my name was slandered in the local paper. It was awesome getting calls and text messages from family and friends as the one sided accusations portrayed us as savage criminals, only getting the side of the story that would get the most attention. Clear cut video almost immediately killed the lawsuit to the point where the plaintiff didn't even get any pity settlement money. Not a peep from the media when the charges were dropped.

 

Both men also disregarded a consultant's advice that riders be at least 16 years old. The indictment alleged that Henry and Schooley contemplated an age limit of 14, but decided the day before the slide's grand opening to do away with age restrictions altogether, using stickers to cover age restriction language on signs posted at the attraction.

Seems more like an insurance/liability protection measure to me.

 

Again, it's important to withhold judgement until after the trial. Grand jury decisions are not nearly enough.

 

As I’m going through this thread since the indictment dropped and things picked up dramatically, this post stands out as excellent commentary. It’s very important to remember who is saying what in any legal matter. Each side is going to portray their case to be as one-sided and clear-cut as possible, and in the end a jury will sort out the facts and a judge or panel of judges will rule on the law. It’s very easy to read the indictment and think that Schlitterbahn was grossly negligent over a period of time and ignored a variety of warnings about this, but that all must be proven at trial. (generally "beyond a reasonable doubt" in criminal matters like involuntary manslaughter, which is quite a high bar to reach)

 

*edit* Just want to tack on this post to say thanks to AllenA07 for a highly insightful post from someone who actually practices law in Texas on pg. 38.

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We'll see what happens. The burden of proof lies heavily on the state. As the article said, it will be difficult for the State to prove this. The state comes out hard with their facts and the defense can't afford to reveal their cards. Often times this makes the accused party appear guilty before the trial, when the defense could have substantial evidence in their favor. These are accusations with little information from the defense. From a publicity standpoint, this always presents an uphill battle. The verdict will tell the real story. Anything up until that point is a bit premature, but I know all too well that accusations are enough in modern times. Especially when the press is looking to make a buck.

 

Just my $.02 based on my experience working with prosecutors and also being a victim in a falsely accused lawsuit. Our local media made it sound like several of our officers mercilessly beat the sh** out of a suspect. I was named in the lawsuit, despite not even being present during the altercation and my name was slandered in the local paper. It was awesome getting calls and text messages from family and friends as the one sided accusations portrayed us as savage criminals, only getting the side of the story that would get the most attention. Clear cut video almost immediately killed the lawsuit to the point where the plaintiff didn't even get any pity settlement money. Not a peep from the media when the charges were dropped.

 

Both men also disregarded a consultant's advice that riders be at least 16 years old. The indictment alleged that Henry and Schooley contemplated an age limit of 14, but decided the day before the slide's grand opening to do away with age restrictions altogether, using stickers to cover age restriction language on signs posted at the attraction.

Seems more like an insurance/liability protection measure to me.

 

Again, it's important to withhold judgement until after the trial. Grand jury decisions are not nearly enough.

 

As I’m going through this thread since the indictment dropped and things picked up dramatically, this post stands out as excellent commentary. It’s very important to remember who is saying what in any legal matter. Each side is going to portray their case to be as one-sided and clear-cut as possible, and in the end a jury will sort out the facts and a judge or panel of judges will rule on the law. It’s very easy to read the indictment and think that Schlitterbahn was grossly negligent over a period of time and ignored a variety of warnings about this, but that all must be proven at trial. (generally "beyond a reasonable doubt" in criminal matters like involuntary manslaughter, which is quite a high bar to reach)

 

*edit* Just want to tack on this post to say thanks to AllenA07 for a highly insightful post from someone who actually practices law in Texas on pg. 38.

 

I completely agree.... but the smoke if pretty thick with this one that a manslaughter charge at least is a feasible outcome for at least one or two people. I want to know...can the company get charged criminally?

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^No. Think about it in terms of the company doing time in prison and then it will make sense. Individuals who work for the company may be charged criminally, if applicable such as this. However, the company can be sued civilly where they would possibly have to award financial compensation for damages.

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And if this is the kind of crap that is going on in the amusement industry where people could get killed as a result...that is VERY frightening!

 

Just know that it happens in every field. Aircraft, automotive, medical equipment, bridges, even nuclear power.

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