Lawsuit settled over teen’s death from brain-eating amoeba at Whitewater Center

Lawsuit settled over teen’s death from brain-eating amoeba at Whitewater Center
US National Whitewater Center (WBTV file photo)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A lawsuit against the U.S. National Whitewater Center involving an Ohio teenager who died from a brain-eating amoeba has been settled, according to court documents.

The suit was initially filed in June 2017 on the one-year anniversary of 18-year-old Lauren Seitz’s death. It alleges the park’s popular rafting channels were dangerous and that park operators showed “conscious disregard for the safety of visitors.”

Court documents released Tuesday confirm the case had been settled, but did not reveal any details about that settlement.

Seitz died of a rare brain infection caused by a single-celled animal, the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, days after visiting the center on June 8, 2016, with a church group. She was in a raft that overturned.

Lauren Seitz, 18. (Photo provided to WBNS-10TV)
Lauren Seitz, 18. (Photo provided to WBNS-10TV)

Under pressure, the park shut down the water feature for nearly two months and a federal epidemiologist found that filtration and disinfection systems were inadequate to properly clean the facility’s turbid waters.

Water samples from the park detected the presence of an amoeba at levels the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had not previously seen. In response to those concerns, the park changed its filtration and disinfection system.

The suit also named Colorado-based Recreation Engineering and Planning as a defendant.

At the time of Seitz’s death, the center was one of only three similar facilities in the U.S. that wasn’t regulated to protect the public from waterborne diseases.

The suit appeared to take aim at one of the primary points of contention following Seitz’s death. Whitewater officials repeatedly defended themselves by saying that the amoeba is common in warm freshwater lakes and other bodies of water during the summer, particularly in the southern United States.

But attorneys for Seitz’s father cited a state review that concluded the “combination of high levels of N. fowleri and likelihood of submersion and exposure to high-velocity water results in a risk of infection that is likely higher than the risk of infection from exposure to N. fowleri in the natural environment.”

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