The need to know what happened, what went wrong, has kicked in full force across Kansas City.
Temper it, people.
A family lost their child at the Schlitterbahn water park. Children are not supposed to die before their parents. That’s a pain that only those who have faced it can truly know. Respect is due the family of Caleb Schwab. A 10-year-old child’s death doesn’t need to be the focus of morbid fascination.
Thankfully, condolences have also been pouring into the family’s Olathe home. And funeral expenses were quickly met through online giving.
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But otherwise, social media has become a battering ram for the ethically challenged.
A 10-year-old boy died at Sunday on the Verrückt water slide at the Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City, Kan. A park spokeswoman confirmed the death at a news conference Sunday afternoon. Schlitterbahn shut down after the accident and will remain closed Monday. Robert A. Cronkleton and Monty DavisThe Kansas City Star
Suddenly, everyone is an engineering expert. Anyone who had anything to recall from any previous trip to the park was deemed relevant by some media. Maybe their recollections will prove to be accurate and important to the investigation. Maybe someone’s musing about what went wrong will prove to be spot on. And then again, probably not.
One guy with a healthy Twitter following even had the gall to accuse the water park of murder. As if evidence of intent exists.
Others latched on to Caleb’s father, his role as a Republican representative in the Kansas Legislature. From there, they linked the GOP’s general pushing against excessive regulations for businesses. The insinuation was that the father bears guilt for a lack of oversight on such amusement rides. What a tremendous leap of logic.
Waiting for the conclusions to an official investigation will try many a person’s patience, including reporters and editors. But that is exactly what must happen.
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Some believe it is fruitless to expect people to present their better selves in this age of social media. It’s too easy and tempting to pop off without thinking. Maybe so, but it’s well worth it to call out those who break the codes of what should be common decency.
The public deserves to know what caused Caleb’s death, factually reported. Contrary to accusations that Schlitterbahn is withholding information is the fact that the investigation isn’t being done by the park alone. Law enforcement is involved, as it should be.
Yes, it’s often true that what ultimately winds up being the cause of an accident is later deemed avoidable. But again, those types of summations will come with study. If proven true, hellfire in the form of public damnation can rain down.
Until then, your hunch is just that.
Solid reporting can and should include outlining unanswered questions, roundups of what is required by regulation for water rides. But even this can only go so far early into the investigation. Experts with no access to the park, either before or after this incident, need to be presented in that vein.
What is a fairer, more subjective topic to discuss, is the nature of American thrill-seeking in general.
In that context, some of the past published comments of Verrückt’s owners and designers ought to be considered. They reportedly said that a lack of height limits for such rides was a factor in building the park in Kansas City, Kan.
And there is there is the question of whether a ride that a co-owner defined as intended for “people into extreme adventure” is the right fit for a family-themed park.
Certainly the public deserves to know why the original age limit of 14 years was lifted. How it was apparently determined sufficient that a child’s weight, rather than age, should be the requirement when combined with height.
The answers will come.
Until then, let words and prayers of condolence dominate conversations about the Schwab family.