The parents of a three-year-old who died after catching a rare infectious illness at a water park in Arlington, Texas are suing the city for $1million.
Bakari Williams died on September 11 of amebic meningoencephalitis, a rare brain-eating amoeba he caught at Don Misenhimer Park splash pad, but his death did not become public until September 27.
His parents, Tariq Williams and Kayla Mitchell have now said they’re suing the city to create public awareness about the disease and how important water maintenance is at establishments frequented by children.
‘For us this case is about public awareness. The last thing that we want is for anyone else and their family to have to feel and go through what we are going through at this time,’ said the father.
The lawsuit has been filed in Tarrant County District Court.
Tariq Williams (left) and Kayla Mitchell (right) sued the city of Arlington after their three-year-old son Bakari died from a rare infectious illness he caught at a water park
Bakari Williams died on September 11 of amebic meningoencephalitis. His parents had taken him to Don Misenhimer Park splash pad three times. But after their last visit he got extremely sick
‘If you’re going to offer this form of public amusement, you’ve got to do it right,’ the parents’ attorney said. ‘It’s too serious not to. It’s life and death’
‘If you’re going to offer this form of public amusement, you’ve got to do it right,’ the parents’ attorney said. ‘It’s too serious not to. It’s life and death.’
The CDC ran tests for the bacteria in the park’s splash pad, which came back positive. Local health officials found chlorine levels below state requirements at the park and suspicious gaps in the documentation of the park’s water maintenance.
‘On behalf of our family and our friends we just want you to know that Bakari was a loving, energetic, passionate, sweet, beautiful, innocent boy,’ Williams said. ‘He didn’t deserve to die in this manner.’
Bakari died at Cook Children’s Medical Center hospital.
His parents had taken him to Don Misenhimer Park in August and September without any inconvenience.
But on September 5, after a visit to Don Misenhimer, Bakari started feeling sick and had a 102-degree fever. His parents said he did not want to eat or drink anything.
‘All he wanted to do was lay down,’ Mitchell said. ‘Nothing could knock him down, so I knew something was wrong,’ she added.
She warned parents of children who showed similar symptoms after visiting a water park to ‘forget about the urgent care center and go straight to the hospital.’
‘All he wanted to do was lay down,’ Bakari’s mother said. ‘Nothing could knock him down, so I knew something was wrong,’ she added
‘At 3 years old, a simple day of fun lead to tragedy…For a week, mom and dad sat by Bakari’s hospital bed as he put up the ultimate fight. In the end, the battle was lost,’ wrote Bakari’s aunt in the despcription of a GoFundMe she created to cover funeral expenses and medical bills
‘For us this case is about public awareness. The last thing that we want is for anyone else and their family to have to feel and go through what we are going through at this time,’ said William
A GoFundMe organized by Bakari’s aunt, Tracey Neal, is close to reaching the $5,000 goal to cover funeral expenses and medical bills.
‘At 3 years old, a simple day of fun lead to tragedy…For a week, mom and dad sat by Bakari’s hospital bed as he put up the ultimate fight. In the end, the battle was lost,’ said Neal in the description.
Officials in Arlington said the city and Tarrant County Public Health were notified that the child had been hospitalized on September 5. After learning of the child’s illness, health officials began investigating and closed all of the city’s public splash pads.
Tarrant County Public Health Department – where Bakari was from – ‘determined two possible sources for the child’s exposure to water containing Naegleria fowleri: the family’s home in Tarrant County or the Don Misenhimer Park splash pad in Arlington.’
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the presence of the ameba in water samples taken on September 10 and 14 from the Don Misenhimer Park splash pad.
City officials also reportedly found low levels of chlorine in the splash pad, which were below the state requirement of 0.5mg/L.
However, reports show that chlorine level in the splash pad was at normal levels two days before the boy arrived. One day after, the levels were recorded as low.
Bakari died after contracting primary amebic meningoencephalitis – a rare brain-eating disease. He contracted the disease at Don Misenhimer Park’s splash pad (pictured) in Arlington, Texas
Naegleria fowleri causes PAM, which results in brain inflammation and destruction of the brain and its lining. Symptoms include, fever, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, and seizures
City officials say records from two of the four splash pads – at Don Misenhimer Park and the Beacon Recreation Center – show Parks and Recreation employees didn’t consistently record, or in some cases did not conduct, the water quality testing that’s required prior to the facilities opening each day.
Of the 100 days the splash pads operated, in only 60 days the water quality was recorded.
‘[A review] identified gaps in our daily inspection program,’ Deputy City Manager Lemuel Randolph said. ‘Those gaps resulted in us not meeting our maintenance standards at our splash pads.’
Records show that employees at Don Misenhimer and Beacon failed to consistently perform chemical tests and, in some cases, did not record the amount of chemicals they put into the system.
‘When chlorine level readings were below minimum state standards at those locations, the inspection log did not consistently reflect what action city employees took to bring the chlorination levels up,’ a city official said.
‘For example, the logs did not always show how much disinfectant chemical was manually added to the splash pad’s water system. The logs also did not consistently include a follow-up reading to confirm that the water chlorination levels were at acceptable levels after treatment,’ the city told NBC 5.
Reports found that the splash pad was inadequately chlorinated, which can cause the disease. City officials found that the park (pictured) inconsistently tested the chlorine levels. It was recorded under state requirements the day after the boy visited
City officials said a review of inspection logs at the Don Misenhimer splash pad found water chlorination readings weren’t documented on two of the three dates that the child was there in late August and early September.
The workers reportedly added chlorine to the pool the day after the boy visited, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, but employees failed to do consistent follow-up readings after treating the pool.
The city has since closed all four splash pads for the remainder of the year.
City officials say Arlington’s drinking water supply was not affected, and that the splash pad is equipped with a backflow prevention device designed to isolate its water from the city’s water distribution system.
The CDC says Naegleria fowleri infections are rare, with just 34 reported in the U.S. from 2010 to 2019. People are infected when water containing the ameba enters the body through the nose, usually when people go swimming or diving in lakes and rivers.
Texas has the record for most primary amebic meningoencephalitis cases in the US, with 39 reported since 1962.
The City of Arlington did confirm all the splash pads passed inspection at the beginning of the season.