Whitewater West Waterslides “Problematic, Cracking” In Hays Aquatic Park, Kansas


As with any company that has been in business for a while, the engineering firm hired to create the controversial Caribbean Splash Waterpark in Graeme Hall, Barbados has had a few unsatisfied customers.

What is unusual about today’s story is that Whitewater West Industries appear to have taken a very short-sighted position with the City of Hays, Kansas, USA – which forced the city council into litigation over a relatively small amount. (Less than $50,000, which is peanuts in the world of water parks)

According to the information on the web, the City of Hays did everything it could to have Whitewater West remedy defects in the waterslides at the Hays Aquatic Park – but when Whitewater refused to deal with the defects, the city was forced to replace the waterslides with new ones from another manufacturer and then sue Whitewater West Industries.

Here are a few excerpts from the web…

From the Hays Town Council Meeting December 16, 2004 (link here)

Hays Aquatic Park Slides: Staff is proposing to replace two slides at the Hays Aquatic Park at a cost of $48,900 to be paid out of the Pool Sales Tax Fund. The existing slides have been a concern since they were originally installed. Both slides have had numerous cracks and imperfections in the jelcoat and attempts have been made to repair the damage. Attempts to resolve this problem with Whitewater West Industries, the manufacturer of the slides, has been to no avail.

The City Attorney will continue to try to resolve this issue with the firm.

But when the City Attorney couldn’t get any satisfaction from Whitewater West Industries, the council voted to rip out the Whitewater West slides and replace them with slides made by someone else…

From the Hays town council meeting, December 23, 2004 (link here)…


The original water slides at the Hays Aquatic Park have been problematic since they were first installed. The slides were originally purchased from Whitewater West Industries. Whitewater has clearly indicated that they will not repair or replace either slide. Another vendor, Splashtacular, Inc., can construct a new family slide to fit the existing frame and footings as well as resurface the open flume slide for $48,900. An amount of $604,028.56 remains in the pool sales tax fund to pay for this project.

City Manager Gustafson stated the City Attorney will be taking whatever legal action is necessary to collect from Whitewater West Industries. Troy Hickman moved, Kent Steward seconded, that the purchase of a family water slide and resurfacing of the open flume slide at the Hays Aquatic Park for a total cost of $48,900 be approved.

Earlier BFP article about Whitewater West Industries Ltd… Caribbean Splash Designers On A Bad Day – 1 Dead, 34 Injured

Photo: Hays Aquatic Park, Hays Kansas (from their website)


Filed under Barbados, Business & Banking, Environment, Island Life, Offshore Investments, Politics & Corruption

15 responses to “Whitewater West Waterslides “Problematic, Cracking” In Hays Aquatic Park, Kansas

  1. Jane

    If Barbados must have a water park, not at Graeme Hall, of course, then we’d better look for a company with a better track record in safety and responsibility. Whitewater West Industries is obviously not good for us. They should have been checked out first.

  2. Crusty

    I think you will find buried in the details of the Freedom of
    Information query that cosmetic gelcoat cracks are NOT
    safety issues. I own a very old sailboat with plenty cracks
    and it hasn’t sunk as a result.

    And it is unfair to blame Whitewater West for a death
    caused by stupid behaviour and not workmanship.

    That said, $ 48,900 is a paltry sum so there must be some
    further unstated reason(s) for the lack of cooperation.

    Please don’t assume improper behaviour before all the
    evidence is available.

  3. Crusty

    I must emphasise that the stupid behaviour was on the
    part of the 70+ students in the group that rushed the
    attendant and proceeded to plug the slide. One of them
    even accepted responsibility when interviewed later –
    a commendable act after such a stupid one.

  4. John

    “An amount of $604,028.56 remains in the pool sales tax fund to pay for this project.”

    Thoght this was an interesting statement. Looks like this municipality over and away can, down the cents, account for taxes by line item.

    Here in Barbados we have what is called a consolidated fund.

    Guess our way is easier for everybody, and I mean, everybody.

  5. BFP

    Gelcracks are not a big deal with sailboats. With children sliding down a water ride at 20 mph, the slightest raise of a piece of plastic rips skin and can cut to the bone. There are several such incidents listed on the web – each more gruesome than the last.

    The more we research about water parks, the more we see that the construction and operation of such an endeavour is not to be taken lightly.

    Further, the minutes of the City of Hays indicate that the problems were there from day one with the Whitewater West Industries’ product.

    Question… did Mr. Kerins and the rest of the Caribbean Splash development team perform their proper due diligence before hiring Whitewater West?

    Was Kerins aware of the death and mass injury situation in California, or did he just become aware when he read the Barbados Free Press?

    What else hasn’t he been told – and by extension, what else haven’t we been told?

  6. BFP

    Also Crusty…

    In terms of the “clogging” issue, our research shows that this is, and was, a known issue in the design and operation of water parks. The freedom of information request shows that after the death, the slide was modified to strengthen it so it wouldn’t collapse in the event of another “clogging” – deliberate or otherwise.

    Presumeably, the Whitewater West now designs the slides to be strong enough in case the people running the slide fail to prevent another playful clogging.

    This is equipment that children use – therefore it must be designed with a level of safety to protect children from the things that children do.

    Whitewater West failed in this regard… and that is why they paid millions in settlement to the family of the dead and the injured.

  7. BFP


    We would love to see a well designed and well operated water park on the island. We think it would be a wonderful attraction for the region, and hopefully would bring in visitors from Caricom as well as North America and Europe.

    But let us find a location that is not in a highly sensitive watershed that should be a National Park – not a dumping area for raw sewerage and de-salination plant run-off.

  8. Crusty

    BFP Says:
    July 25th, 2006 at 3:30 pm

    This is equipment that children use – therefore it must be designed with a level of safety to protect children from the things that children do.

    Whitewater West failed in this regard… and that is why they paid millions in settlement to the family of the dead and the injured.

    I’m an engineer (electrical / mechanical) trained in Canada.
    As part of our “initiation” we are presented with an iron ring
    to be worn on the baby finger of the working hand. In my
    time it was made from wrought iron salvaged from a bridge
    that collapsed in Quebec in the early 1900’s. The purpose is
    to have a continuing reminder that the risk of failure is an
    ongoing part of the trade. Bridge design is considerably
    better now than early last century but it remains a fact that
    structures stressed beyond their limit state are expected to

    One will then argue that incorrect assumptions were used to
    specify the limit state. Hindsight is a wonderful invention.
    Its a shame that God did not grant humans prescient vision
    and a further shame that many humans look for someone
    with deep pockets to blame rather than accept that people
    can in good faith make reasonable assumptions that are
    invalidated by stupid behaviour.

    I read in comments here a continuing suspicion of the
    underlying reasons for actions undertaken. Is that because
    the writers would themselves use nefarious means to some
    end and thus assume all others would do the same?

    I can’t believe and won’t believe that is the way the world
    (or even Barbados) operates – I’ve seen too many great
    examples to the contrary in my time.

    It was clear to me at the town hall meeting that the presenters
    had not done all their homework. That makes them unprepared
    but not necessarily incompetent.

    If I was American I might say: Ya’ all have a nice day now 🙂

  9. RRRicky

    Hindsight is easy ten years after the fact Crusty.

    But the waterslide that collapsed and killed that young girl happened two years AFTER an engineer warned of stability and other problems with the Whitewater West equipment. He got fired for his warnings.

    The issue must then become about the integrity of the company that ignored those warnings.

    They paid, and they paid because they had to.

    Is it still the same people running Whitewater West now?

  10. Crusty

    RRRicky Says:
    July 25th, 2006 at 4:31 pm

    But the waterslide that collapsed and killed that young girl happened two years AFTER an engineer warned of stability and other problems with the Whitewater West equipment. He got fired for his warnings.


    No evidence is provided as to why he was fired. Newspaper
    innuendo is not fact.

    Quoting from the second Freedom of Information file, page 7:

    “Reeds said Thursday that an engineering firm hired by the city
    to review the damaged slide has reported that the issues raised
    by Theophanous were irrelevant to the part of the slide that
    failed. … Read, who is not an engineer, also said that Theophanous’
    concerns were related to the effect of wind on the towers, not on
    the load bearing capacity of the flumes.”

    [end quote]

    His notes were likely attached to the file in the common practice to
    ensure that evidence of due diligence is retained.

    Surely if city officials were in cover the ass mode, they would
    have emphasised possible irregularities, not dismissed them?

    We don’t know why Whitewater paid up, nor if they had to do so.
    Perhaps it was an ex-gratia payment (as a lawyer might say).

    Legitimate diversity of opinion is common in many situations. The
    decisionmakers ought to consider each opinion, weigh it in the
    balance, accept or reject, and move on. Accepting that responsibility
    is why decisionmakers are paid more than ordinary workers. It is
    not reason to question the integrity of the company.

    Once again, I am not an apologist for any party in this debate.
    But a little more rigour in verifying supporting details goes a
    long way to enhance credibility of the argument.

  11. RRRicky

    crusty, I hear you and I know where you are coming from.

    I will ask this of yuo. Have you ever been to a waterpark? kids horse around and p;lay and it is expected that they will do so. that is Why they have many lifeguards and such to prevent horseplay and people getting hurt.

    it is known that kids horseplay at water parks. It is known that many block slides and such. Always has been the case and will forever be the reality of a waterpark.

    doesn’t take an engineer or a smart person to see this.

    Whitewater designed the slide for a lighter load than happened, but after they beefed up the structure (in the FOI request) so that it could take it if the same thing happened again.

    They originally made the slide lighter and cheaper rather than stronger and more expensive. They chose wrong. Someone died. That is reality.

  12. kabababrubarta

    Nice design! kabababrubarta

  13. I have been in this industry for a long time and I do resurfacing of slides and repairs to cracks in gel coat I would say it doesnt matter the size of the crack big or small it presents a hazard for all who use the slides I personally have delt with all slide manufactures and have found that the aqua recreation builds the stongest slides and most durable not mold injected. Mold injected slides in time crack so badly due to the resin between the fiberglass breaking loose not giving the gel coat the proper support.


  14. immoniakava

    Was ist das?

  15. w bowen

    The company i work for could have fixed those slids no problem