The KCK Schlitterbahn Water Slide Death
Posted on August 10, 2016
Further evidence on libertarian market failure: two days after the event, the police have belatedly confirmed Internet rumors that the 10 year old victim was decapitated. No further details have been released on exactly what happened.
However, after the fact other information is coming forth on just how dangerous the ride actually was. Outside amusement park engineers point out that the Verrückt ride is actually just like a roller coaster, with one big difference: a roller coaster car is tightly tied to the rail it rides on, which prevents many possible kinds of accidents. The water slide vehicle isn’t tied to anything, so it is free to jump into the air or fall off sideways or flip if it hits the wrong waves. And no outside authority ever approved that general design as safe. The netting that surrounds the ride is also problematical–at high speeds it will tend to grab and twist any boat that hits it.
Meanwhile, patrons are coming forth with stories of previous accidents and near-accidents. For example, the boats have been known to go airborne, and personal harnesses have come loose.
As it happened, the park had delayed opening the ride while engineers worked on problems like these. There are apparently no public engineering reports on how these issues were settled.
According to standard libertarian theory, unfettered markets are supposed to be self-regulating. While theoretical perfect markets can not eliminate all risk, at least you would expect the park operators to know about these events, to understand there were serious risks to life and limb, and (at a bare minimum) warn customers that they might die.
Instead, operators apparently decided to conceal the dangers, milk whatever profits they could from a defective ride they couldn’t fix, and then try to minimize tort damages in court after something went wrong. Meanwhile their lobbyists prevented federal, state, and local authorities from intervening.