A year after the death of 18-year-old Lauren Seitz, a teen who died from a brain-eating amoeba she picked up from a water, her family have filed for a wrongful death lawsuit.
A Tragic Loss
The teen died June 19 2016, after being exposed to the amoeba known as Naegleria fowleri, which can cause a rare and deadly infection in the brain. US National Whitewater Center and its builders, Recreation Engineering and Planning Inc. are being charged with gross negligence and recklessness in the lawsuit.
Both Whitewater and Recreation Engineering have refused to comment on the lawsuit. Whitewater said that they don’t “publicly discuss matter related to pending litigation.”
Seitz, who was on a music tour with 40 members of the Church of Messiah, had just graduated from high school in Westerville, Ohio. The church tour had passed by US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina for recreation time to cooldown after a busy schedule.
The center is known for offering a multitude of outdoor activities including whitewater rafting, biking and ziplining. Seitz and a few of her friends had gone whitewater rafting, when the raft turned over, exposing her to the water.
The teen began showing symptoms when she got back home a few days later. She was hospitalized soon after and diagnosed with the brain-eating amoeba. She died 11 days after the trip.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the amoeba, Naegleria fowleri is usually found in warm freshwater and soil. It can grow in pipes too. Anywhere with salt water should be safe. If it enters via the nose, then it can reach the brain easily, causing swelling then death. Symptoms commonly include headaches, vomiting, fever, seizures and hallucinating.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said at the time of her death that her “only known underwater exposure was believed to be when riding in a raft with several others that overturned at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte.”
Insufficient Health and Safety
Dr. Jennifer Cope, an infectious disease physician at CDC expressed at the time that their findings were significant. “We saw multiple positive samples at levels we’ve not previously seen in environmental samples.” Copes continues that due to the dirt and debris in the water, the amoeba was able to grow until it reached such high concentrations.
After Seitz’s death, the water park closed down to work with officials. According to Cope, the sanitation process was compromised.
Demand for Justice
The lawsuit says “Lauren and other visitors had a higher likelihood of encountering Naegleria fowleri in the unregulated waters of U.S. National Whitewater Center than they did by simply rafting in the nearby Catawba River.”
The lawsuit continues to state that the center showed “a conscious disregard for the safety of its visitors.” The lawsuit shows that the center failed to chlorinate and maintain its water. They even failed at properly training employees to regulate facilities.
The lawsuit states that the Colorado-based Recreation Engineering and Planning which built the $37 million park had created very shallow water for the attraction and that the water filtration system was inadequate for public safety.