'We Had an Emotional Meltdown' Says Woman at the Scene of 10-Year-Old Kansas Boy Who Died on Water Slide
"Thousands of people have ridden it with no problems and he was the one to die," says eyewitness Kelsey Friedrichsen
Kelsey Friedrichsen and her boyfriend Josh Foster were walking up to the 168-foot Verrück water slide at Kansas City’s Schlitterbahn water park for their 3 p.m. scheduled ride when they noticed a large group of people gathering at the bottom of the slide.
“There was a woman being treated for some kind of injury on her face and head,” Friedrichsen, 27, from Kansas City, Kansas, tells PEOPLE. “That was when my boyfriend said, ‘I think there is someone else.’ ”
What he noticed was first responders covering up another victim, who was lying at the bottom of the second slide. It turned out to be 10-year-old Caleb Schwab, who was killed on the ride.
“We held each other and had a little emotional meltdown once we moved away from the immediate area,” she says. “It was just difficult to process.”
Police released a statement late Monday confirming that Caleb died of a fatal “neck injury.” There were two women in the boat with him at the time, neither related to Caleb. They suffered minor facial injuries and were treated at local hospitals.
“It looked like he must have somehow been ejected from his seat, bounced around between the netting and the slide and just slid down,” she says. “He would have fallen down without the raft. It’s kind of like a tube.”
Friedrichsen says despite the horrific scene, no one was panicking.
“It was calm and somber,” she says, “but when we left, our car was right across from what were either the family members or their friends. They were being escorted to their vehicle by police and were visibly very upset.”
She adds: “I just want to believe that it was an issue with the harness and the kids size that added up to this disaster. It’s horrific. It was just shocking more than anything.
Schlitterbahn is tentatively scheduled to reopen on Wednesday, although Verrück will remain closed.
“We are deeply and intensely saddened for the Schwab Family and all who were impacted by the tragic accident on the Verrück water slide at Schlitterbahn Kansas City on Sunday afternoon,” reads part of their written statement released on Monday. “The family and each and every one of those affected are foremost on our minds and in our hearts today. We ask the community to please keep all of those impacted in your thoughts and prayers.”
• With additional reporting by HILARY SHENFELD.