David Salmon knew he was sliding too fast. And the only thing between him and the ground was a rocky cliff. But his attempt to slow down didn’t work, and it made things even worse.
Is there a way to reduce the damage? Or would he die a painful death on the rocks?
Scrapes, lacerations, concussions and broken limbs. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, these are some of the injuries emergency rooms treat on more than 4,200 people every year.
And they’re all caused by accidents on public waterslides. Today, we’ll be counting down the top three most deadly waterslide accidents, introducing you to the people who survived them, and the ones that didn’t.
At a public park or your friend’s private pool, falling off a waterslide is something that can happen to anyone. And aside from being physically injured, you could be traumatized for life. Or it could kill you.
Why should you keep your arms and legs crossed? How did someone survive a 4.5 m (15 ft) fall? And why could relaxing your muscles save your life?
Coming in at number three, “A Painful Debut”.
The Emerald Plunge was a three-story water slide. In 2017, it had its big inauguration at the Wave Waterpark in Dublin, California. It had an open top, and people were supposed to slide down it on their backs.
And only 90 minutes after opening, a 10-year-old boy took his turn. But near the bottom of the slide, the boy began hydroplaning. The arch of his back began sliding along the ride’s rim for 1 m (3 ft) or so. Then he was launched over the edge.
He slid across the rough surface, scraping the skin off his back. Luckily, when he went over the edge, he was at the bottom of the slide, not the top. With first aid help from park and city employees, the boy walked away after the incident.
And employees immediately shut down the Emerald Plunge for the rest of the season. But the accident had a big impact on the child. His mother said that six months after it happened, her son still had trouble going to sleep at night. When he shut his eyes, he felt as though he was falling from the very top of the waterslide. Still, this is a far better fate than the one we ‘ll watch in our number one story.
Number 2. A Rocky Descent
Remember David Salmon? In 2016, in Austin, Texas, he was going down a waterslide at his friend’s private residence. As he approached the sharpest turns, he used his arms to push against the side of the slide and slow his momentum.
Unfortunately, that was not enough to keep David Salmon safe. He soared over the edge of the slide and down a rocky cliff. Emergency crews had a hard time reaching him as the bottom of the cliff made access difficult. But they eventually transported David to Round Rock Hospital, and he was diagnosed with fractured ribs, a broken arm, and cuts and bruises throughout his body. Thankfully, he survived.
David told a news outlet that he had gone down the waterslide a few times, and it was fast. But that time, he couldn’t slow down. So he went right over the edge. For a split second, he thought, “Oh no!” Then he felt a hard crash, and everything was blurry.
Now before we get to our last story, let’s see what we can learn from the first two.
In “A Painful Debut,” the 10-year-old boy could’ve avoided hydroplaning out of the waterslide if he had followed the safety instructions given by the water park employee. According to the water park officials, riders should cross their arms and legs when going down the slide, but the boy’s legs were apart. That mistake likely contributed to his hydroplaning and his back lifting over the edge of the waterslide.
In “A Rocky Descent,” the video shows David Salmon with his legs apart and his arms dragging against the side of the slide as he tried to slow down. But that made things worse. When he got to the turn, he went over the edge because his body weight was unevenly distributed, and the slide wasn’t designed to handle the way his weight was distributed. Again, if he had crossed his arms and legs, he would have been safer.
If you fall from a great height, it’s recommended you try and relax your muscles a bit. And bend your knees while holding your legs together. Then both of your feet will hit the ground at the same time and weaken the impact. Cover your head with your arms too. Then, if you fall over onto your side, you will be protecting your head.
This could have helped David Salmon, but luckily he still got out alive. That doesn’t happen to everyone. If you don’t have control of your own body, you may depend on someone else’s weight. And this brings us to our last story.
Number 1. A Preventable Tragedy
In 2014, a slide called Verrückt, which means crazy or insane in German, opened up at Kansas City’s Schlitterbahn Waterpark. It was marketed as being the tallest waterslide in the world.
At 52 m (170 ft) tall, riders had to climb 264 steps before getting on a raft and plummeting down the slide. But the rafts sometimes lifted from the chute. To make sure the riders would not fall off, netting supported by metal poles covered the waterslide.
It seemed safe, but it was not. In 2016, 10-year old Caleb Schwab got onto a raft with two other riders. After the raft picked up speed and soared into the air at the crest of the ride, Caleb Schwab was tossed toward the netting. He hit his head on a metal pole. It decapitated him.
The other two riders on the raft suffered serious facial injuries. One had a broken jaw, and the other had a facial bone fracture. Schwab reportedly only weighed 33.5 kg (74 lbs), yet he was allowed to sit on the front of the raft, instead of being in between the two heavier riders.
This distributed the weight unevenly and could have contributed to the accident. Other errors led to this tragedy as well. According to the guidelines, Verrückt should have used a rigid over-the-shoulder restraint for riders instead of hook and loop straps, and an upstop mechanism to prevent the rafts from becoming airborne.
In 2017, Schwab’s family received a settlement of nearly $20.000.000 from Schlitterbahn and other companies involved in the waterslide. The biggest lesson we can learn from these stories is to follow the rules, especially when they affect your safety.
- “Verrückt (Water Slide) – Wikipedia”. 2021. en.wikipedia.org.
- “Caleb Schwab death: Boy decapitated by ‘world’s tallest waterslide’ was not murdered, court finds’”. Jacey Fortin. 2019. The Independent.
- “The moment a man flies off a home-made water slide, falls 15 feet down a rocky cliff and breaks his arm and several ribs” Graham, Regina. 2016. Mail Online.
- “Man falls off cliff after being flung off water slide”. Simon, Robb. 2016. Metro.
- “Water Park Injuries And Deaths”. Blumenshine Law Group.
- “Child thrown from water park slide in Dublin”. kron4.com.
- “The Physics Behind Waterslides”. 2021. Science.