The Kansas boy was decapitated Sunday while going down the 168-foot-tall Verruckt water slide at the Schlitterbahn Water Park, police told TIME on Tuesday. The circumstances leading to the tragedy are still unclear. Authorities said the boy was found dead at the bottom of the ride in a pool.
More than 400 people have donated to an online fundraising page to help his family pay for funeral expenses, as the little boy’s family and friends remembered him as an energetic child who was full of life and faith.
“Caleb was an incredible young man,” Clint Sprague, the lead pastor at the family’s LifeMission Church, told the Kansas City Star. “He’s going to be missed for his energy, for his life, for his smile, for the way he lit up a room.”
The GoFundMe account — created by Michael Persaud, a volunteer at the church who taught Caleb and other children in Bible classes — surpassed its $15,000 goal in just one day. The outpouring of support shows how much Caleb meant to those who knew him and how the story has touched other people across the country, Persaud, 35, told TIME.
“I remember just holding my kids closer,” he said of the moment he found out Caleb had died. “He was just the sweetest kid. He would always be enthusiastic and just happy to be there. He was just into it, excited about Godly things.”
The boy’s father, Republican state Rep. Scott Schwab, mourned the “sudden loss” of his son in a statement through the fundraising page. “Since the day he was born he brought abundant joy to our family and all those who he came in contact with,” the statement said. “As we try and mend our home with him no longer with us, we are in comfort knowing he believed in his Savior, Jesus, and they are forever together now. We will see him another day.”
Caleb’s pastor told the Star that the little boy loved to play sports and pray. “Caleb was a 10-year-old child, but in many ways, he was a man of God,” Sprague said, according to the newspaper.
Visitation will be held 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at LifeMission Church in Olathe, Kansas, according to the GoFundMe page. A memorial service is planned for Friday at 2 p.m.
“It’s been devastating at every level. You know leave church, you go to a water park to be with family and to enjoy. And then you hit tragedy,” Sprague said. “There is just no way to prepare for this.”
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