Kansas water park accident highlights lack of federal safety rules

The death of a 10-year-old boy at a Kansas City, Kansas, water park is highlighting the lack of federal oversight of rides at America's theme parks.

Kansas authorities said the boy died from a neck injury. The child was riding the world's tallest water slide at the Schlitterbahn Water Park when the incident happened.

>> Son of Kansas lawmaker dies on world's tallest water slide at Kansas City water park

The ride is called Verruckt. A Schlitterbahn spokesman told a local Kansas news stations that all rides are inspected daily by personnel before the park opens.

Under Kansas law, amusement ride inspections are required, but self-inspections are allowed. Parks may hire an outside inspector to inspect the ride once a year.

Theme parks with "fixed" rides, like roller coasters and water slides, are exempt from federal oversight. Regulations vary by state. Currently, 44 of 50 states regulate amusement parks. Alabama, Mississippi, Nevada, South Dakota, Wyoming and Utah do not regulate amusement parks on a state level.

The Consumer Protection Safety Commission does have the power to oversee temporary rides at traveling fairs or carnivals, but lacks authority over “fixed site” amusement rides.

When Sen. Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) was a U.S. congressman, he lobbied for roller coaster safety legislation. He introduced legislation in every Congress since 1999 to restore full federal oversight of amusement park rides. The bill died every year.

Markey's office said there are no plans to introduce a bill.

"We continue to monitor the situation," a spokeswoman said.

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions said states are best suited to regulate the industry. The group also said there's no evidence federal oversight would improve the amusement park industry.

"Water park attractions are exceptionally safe … Incidents like what happened in Kansas City are extremely rare. We go to great lengths to ensure the safety of our guests," a spokesman said.