The family of an Ohio woman who died after contracting a brain-eating amoeba has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a North Carolina outdoor recreational park.
The family of Lauren Seitz filed the federal lawsuit Monday in Columbus, Ohio, a year after the 18-year-old died from meningoencephalitis, a disease caused by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri.
The lawsuit says Seitz contracted the amoeba at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina after she was thrown overboard into the water, according to Daily Mail.
The center issued a statement at the time of Seitz's death last year saying it filtered and disinfected the water.
But an employee complained about the conditions and a federal epidemiologist found the filtration and disinfection systems were inadequate. The level of amoeba in the water was also off the charts, the Charlotte Observer reported.
The family, which is seeking punitive damages of more than $1million, also claims the center failed to properly chlorinate the water, regulate the temperature of the water and warn visitors of the possible dangers.
On June 8 2016, Seitz went on a whitewater rafting trip with her church group.
The raft overturned at one point, marking her only known underwater exposure before she died.
Seitz's pastor Jim Wilson, with the Church of the Messiah United Methodist Church in Westerville said June 8 was the only day that the group went swimming before they returned home on June 11.
Just eight days later, Seitz died on June 19 from Naegleria fowleri, a one-celled organism commonly found in warm freshwater.
The organism does not cause illness if swallowed, but can be deadly if forced up the nose. The CDC said only 10 cases or so are reported each year, although nearly all of them fatal.
The Whitewater Center issued a statement at the time of Seitz's death, saying the water was filtered and and disinfected with chlorine as well as ultraviolent radiation sufficient to "inactivate" the amoeba, a process the center described as 99.99 perc ent effective.
But a federal epidemiologist found that the filtration and disinfection systems at the center were inadequate, and the level of amoeba in the water was beyond what the CDC had previously seen, the Charlotte Observer reported.
A park employee also complained about dead animals, and trash in the water, while saying raft guides often got staph infections and ringworm.
The center's water was not inspected by the county or state because the man-made system is not considered to be a public pool, Mecklenburg County's health director said.
By late 2016, the U.S. National Whitewater Center worked with both the Mecklenburg County and North Carolina Health Department officials to develop new water quality standards.
The center is now required to hold an annual permit proving its water quality is up to standards after a park.
Seitz had graduated with honors from Westerville South High School, where she was drum major of the school's marching band, in May 2016, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
"This was an enormous loss for the band, but also to the Westerville community and family," band director John Laswell said in a Facebook post.
"Lauren just graduated in May and was one of the most talented, humble and caring students I've ever taught."
She was enrolled at Denison University, where she planned to study Environmental Science and had declared a minor in music, her obituary says.
"Lauren understood the overwhelming beauty and fragility of life with uncommon clarity and cared so deeply about the welfare of other people and this world we all share," it adds.
"Her genuine kindness and encouragement will continue to inspire and comfort everyone who knew her."