It was summer 2017, and I was getting ready to work my first job. I was so happy that Schlitterbahn hired me that I didn’t think anything about the tragic accident on the Verrückt water coaster the previous year. I remember hearing about the accident on the news and thought that the park was going to shut down. But it didn’t, so I worked there.
I was hired as an admissions cashier—taking payment and putting on wristbands—so I was one of the first people that guests saw coming into the park. I was responsible for answering questions, but I felt uncomfortable talking about the Verrückt accident, which killed a ten-year-old boy. I remember a few times where customers would ask if the slide was opened, and they would also ask why it was permanently shut down. I thought it was absurd that not everyone had heard about the accident, but the slide was still visible, and as people rode the lazy river they floated right past it.
The park’s entire approach to the grisly accident on its most famous attraction was to just pretend it hadn’t happened. Then again, that’s how some guests acted, too.
During our orientation, we were given a tour of the park. As we were approaching Verrückt, our manager said, “Oh we won’t go over there.” I remember looking at my friend in confusion, amazed that managers were just sweeping the accident under the mat instead of properly training us on how to speak about it.
Halfway through the summer, on one of our busiest days, we had a line almost to the end of the parking lot. I will never forget my conversation with a guest. “Hey, is that slide open today?” “Which slide?” I asked. He pointed at Verrückt. “No sir, that slide is closed permanently,” I said. He got upset because his family drove all the way from Texas to ride it. Hadn’t everyone heard about a fatal accident at the largest waterslide in the world? It was everywhere on the news. I told my supervisor what had happened, and he told me that I should just tell anyone that asks about Verrückt to Google what happened. As a teenager, I did not think much about the situation, but looking back, it’s bizarre we had no training whatsoever on the topic. It seemed like at least once a shift someone would ask something regarding Verrückt.
The next year, I went back to work at Schlitterbahn. There were fewer questions, but the park was much less busy. There were constant complaints from guests about half of the park being closed. The main attraction was the lazy river. Customers often complained about how they would make long drives from Texas, Branson and other places just to arrive at Schlitterbahn and find it half-closed—including, of course, the Verrückt.