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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
The family of a Westerville woman who died after contracting a brain-eating amoeba filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court in Columbus against a North Carolina outdoor recreational park and the firm that designed and engineered it.
The lawsuit was filed one year to the day after Lauren Seitz, 18, died from meningoencephalitis, which is caused by the microscopic Naegleria fowleri amoeba. The suit seeks damages in excess of $1 million.
Seitz was whitewater rafting at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, along with about 40 other people from Church of the Messiah who stopped there June 8, 2016 during a Christian music mission tour. The park offers whitewater rafting, canoeing, kayaking and other activities.
While whitewater rafting, Seitz was thrown overboard and her head went completely underwater. According to the lawsuit, Seitz came into contact with the deadly amoeba that was "present throughout the entire whitewater feature" at the park.
Seitz and the church group returned to Westerville on June 11, 2016. Three days later, she began complaining of sinus congestion. By June 16, 2016, she was transported to a hospital, where two days later she was diagnosed with the amoeba. Seitz died the next day, June 19, 2016.
Naegleria folweri are amoeba about one-third the width of a human hair that flourish in freshwater with temperatures between 86 and 107 degrees Fahrenheit, the suit states. The amoeba travels up the nasal passage, across the cribriform plate of the skull and into the brain, consuming tissue and causing flu-like symptoms before eventually causing death in 98 percent of cases, the suit states.
The lawsuit alleges that the water park and Recreation Engineering and Planning of Boulder, Colorado, caused Seitz's death by, respectively, failing to properly chlorinate the water to kill the amoeba and by designing the park with shallow channels that allow water to warm to temperatures conducive to the amoeba's growth. Neither could be reached for comment Monday night.
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