On Monday, the family of Lauren Seitz, 18, a teen killed by a brain eating amoeba allegedly picked up at a water park in North Carolina, filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit seeking in excess of $1 million. The teen’s family filed the lawsuit exactly a year after their daughter’s death. She died of June 19, 2016, from inhaling the brain eating amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, that caused her to have a brain infection.
CNN reported that the lawsuit filed by the teen’s family names the North Carolina water park, U.S. National Whitewater Center, and the company that built it, Recreation Engineering and Planning Inc., alleging that both should be held accountable for Seitz’ death. The reason the lawsuit states that they should be held accountable is that both “were grossly negligent and reckless,” enabling the conditions to exist that led to Seitz’ death from the brain eating amoeba.
According to CBS News, the federal lawsuit was filed in Columbus, Ohio. The water park in North Carolina is located approximately “15 miles west of Charlotte.”
People reported that the brain eating amoeba causes “primary amebic meningoencephalitis” in the brains of people it infects, causing a fatal swelling of the brain. The organism often lives in warm bodies of freshwater, like lakes during the summer.
The only response, so far, from the U.S. National Whitewater Center has been to say when it comes to “pending litigation,” the company does not publicly discuss details about any cases filed against it. Also, Recreation Engineering and Planning Inc. has not responded to emails or phone calls from CNN requesting a comment about the lawsuit.
Lauren Seitz, who recently graduated from high school in Westerville, Ohio, went to North Carolina with a group of “40 other members of Church of the Messiah” on a music tour. They decided to include a stop in the state’s capital of Charlotte, at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, to have a fun time and get away from the heat of the summer for a few hours. Seitz died within three weeks after she graduated from high school.
The water park’s Facebook page mentions that some of the outdoor activities offered there are ziplines, biking, and whitewater rafting. The wrongful death lawsuit alleges that when the teen and her friends were whitewater rafting, their raft flipped over, which exposed Seitz’ nose and face to the water, where she came into contact with Naegleria fowleri.
A few days later, after Seitz had returned to Ohio, she began to show symptoms of exposure to the brain eating amoeba. At a local hospital, doctors diagnosed Seitz with having been exposed to Naegleria fowleri and getting a brain infection from it. Seitz returned from the trip on June 11, and she passed away on June 19. In a statement to People last year, a spokeswoman for the Franklin County Department of Public Health Department in Ohio, Mitzi Kline, confirmed that Seitz died from exposure to the brain eating amoeba.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the brain eating amoeba is found in soil and in warm freshwater. Naegleria fowleri can grow in freshwater pipes but it is not found in bodies of salt water.
Swallowing the brain eating amoeba will not cause a person to get sick, but inhaling it can, in some cases, result in death, if the amoeba progresses to a person’s brain, where it causes the brain to swell. Symptoms of becoming infected with Naegleria fowleri include hallucinations and seizures, fever, headaches, and vomiting. “Loss of balance” is another symptom.
According to the CDC, water samples taken from the U.S. National Whitewater Center not long after Seitz passed away confirmed that the water tested positive for the presence of the brain eating amoeba. An infectious disease physician at the CDC, Dr. Jennifer Cope, called the findings “significant.”
The CDC collected “multiple positive samples” from the water park. Dr. Cope stated that their were levels of the amoeba in the “environmental samples” that have never before been seen. She said that “the amount of dirt and debris in the water” was possibly what caused such high concentrations of the brain eating amoeba to grow at the water park. She stated that the dirt and debris in the water “interfered with the effectiveness of the sanitation process.”
Following Seitz’ death, the U.S. National Whitewater Center was closed for several weeks while officials at the water park worked with authorities to ensure the water there was no longer contaminated with Naegleria fowleri. The federal lawsuit stated that the likelihood was higher for the teen and other guests at the water park to encounter the brain eating amoeba than if they had gone “rafting in the nearby Catawba River.”
The family of Lauren Seitz, 18, from Ohio, filed a federal lawsuit on Monday, suing the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, for over $1 million, after the teen died from an infection caused by the brain eating amoeba, Naegleria fowleri. The lawsuit states that the water park did not “properly chlorinate and maintain” the water there or properly train its employees” on how “to regulate the facilities.”
The lawsuit claims that the water park disregarded “the safety of its visitors, including Lauren.” The lawsuit maintains that the water in the whitewater rafting area “was too shallow.” In addition, the lawsuit claims that the water filtration system at the water park was not sufficient enough “to safeguard the public.”
By John Samuels
Photo Courtesy The Hill Funeral Home