How safe are kids from brain-eating amoebas in Austin pools?

A North Texas family is suing the City of Arlington after their son caught a deadly brain-eating amoeba from a city splash pad. The 3-year-old boy died days after he was exposed to the water in early September at Don Misenheimer Park. His parents hope a wrongful death lawsuit will protect other Texas children.

Kayla Mitchell and Tariq Williams could go on about their 3-year-old little son Bakari Williams. "Bakari was a loving and energetic passionate sweet, beautiful, innocent little boy," said Tariq Williams, Bakari’s father.

Monday, these parents returned to the same splash pad the CDC confirmed was the source of the brain-eating amoeba that killed their little boy to announce their filing of a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Arlington.

"We don't want another innocent child to die from a brain-eating amoeba. That's crazy coming out of my mouth, a brain-eating amoeba," said Stephen Stewart, family’s attorney.

Bakari and his family have visited this splash pad several times, but it was after their final visit when Bakari became seriously ill and developed a 102-degree fever hours after the trip.

"All he wanted to do was stay in bed. We had to help him go to the bathroom because he was too weak to stand up," said Kayla Mitchell, Bakari’s mother.

Bakari was hospitalized for a week before passing away on September 11th from that rare brain-eating amoeba called Naegleria Fowleri. "He didn’t deserve to die in this manner," said Williams.

According to the CDC, Naegleria Fowleri infects people when the contaminated water enters through the nose. It is commonly found in warm, fresh bodies of water. In rare cases, it can also be found in water sources that are not properly chlorinated.

The City of Arlington said its parks and recs employees did not consistently record or conduct required daily water testing at two splash locations causing chlorine levels to be below the minimum requirement. One of those locations was the splash pad where Bakari caught the mostly fatal amoeba.

"The City of Arlington is responsible for Bakari’s death. It was 100% preventable," said Brian Hargrove, family’s attorney.

Here in Austin, the City's Parks and Recs Aquatics Division says all 9 splash pads are tested daily by a certified pool operator for chemicals and overall sanitation.

"If those are not within a safe range, we do close the splash pads. The important thing to know is how they're built, so they have safety mechanisms that shut the systems down if the chemicals are not within an appropriate range," said Jodi Jay, Division Manager for the City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Departments Aquatics Division.

In addition to the use of chlorine, Austin’s splash pads and pools use secondary sanitation systems to kill bacteria and viruses.

Bakari's family is hoping this wrongful death lawsuit prevents another innocent child from dying like this again. "For us, this case is about public awareness. The last thing we want is for anyone else to feel and have to go through what we're going through at this time," said Williams.

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