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Rare-Brain Eating Amoeba Found In Texas Splash Pad, Infected 3-Year Old Boy Dies; Parents Sue the City

On Monday, the parents of a 3-year-old boy who died after becoming infected with a rare brain-eating amoeba found at a Texas splash pad he’d visited sued the city that ran it for negligence.

Tariq Williams (left) holds Kayla Mitchell

Tariq Williams (left) holds Kayla Mitchell, the parents of Bakari Williams, alongside photos of their son during a press conference at Don Misenhimer Park on Monday, Oct. 4, 2021, in Arlington. (Photo: Elias Valverde II/The Dallas Morning News)

In Tarrant County District Court in Fort Worth, parents Tariq Williams and Kayla Mitchell filed their lawsuit against the city of Arlington. Bakari Williams, their son, died Sept. 11 after contracting primary amebic meningoencephalitis, a rare and typically fatal infection caused by the naegleria fowleri amoeba.

‘He didn’t Deserve this’

At a news conference Monday afternoon, attorneys representing the family of a young boy who died after becoming infected with a deadly amoeba at an Arlington splash pad announced they had filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Arlington.

The attorneys released photos of the child and identified him as 3-year-old Bakari Williams. Williams went to Don Misenhimer Park before being admitted to Cook Children’s Medical Center with primary amebic meningoencephalitis. He died on September 11th.

“Bakari was a loving, energetic, passionate, sweet, beautiful and innocent boy,” Williams said. “He didn’t deserve to die in this manner.”

Bakari’s family visited Arlington’s Don Misenhimer Park’s splash pad twice in late August and once in early September.

Mitchell reported that her typically energetic son became ill shortly after his last visit. He developed a fever of more than 102 degrees, felt weak, and could not eat or drink anything.

An investigation by the city has already revealed problems with water quality, incomplete records, and gaps in inspections at the city’s four splash pads, including the one at Don Misenheimer Park. According to city documents, city staff failed to record water quality test readings on 64 of the 100 days the fountains were operational this summer.

“No parents should ever have to bury their child,” said Brian Hargrove, one of the family’s attorneys. “The city of Arlington is responsible for Bakari’s death. This was 100% preventable.”

A city spokeswoman declined to comment on the lawsuit because city officials have not yet seen it.

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A sign states the splash pad is closed at Don Misenhimer Park where child was infected with a rare brain-eating amoeba in Arlington.

A sign states the splash pad is closed at Don Misenhimer Park where child was infected with a rare brain-eating amoeba in Arlington. (Photo: LM Otero/AP)

CDC Confirms Presence of The Amoeba

The city immediately closed the splash pad at Don Misenheimer Park following notification of the child’s illness, and then closed all public splash pads for the remainder of the year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the presence of the amoeba in water samples taken from the splash pad on September 24, determining that the splash pad was the likely source of Bakari’s exposure.

One of the family’s attorneys, Stephen Stewart, stated that the lawsuit will put pressure on cities and government agencies to provide adequate care to splash pads, swimming pools, and recreational facilities, as required by state law.

“A little more chlorine, and this child would be here today,” he said. “This is about saving kids’ lives, plain and simple.”

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