ARLINGTON, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Parents of a 3-year-old boy named Bakari Williams, who died on September 11 from a brain-eating amoeba likely contracted at Don Misenhimer Park on September 5, are speaking out.
Bakari’s mother, Kayla Mitchell described him as “just a big ball of energy”. She said he was a very loving older brother to her one-year-old and another brother who passed away from SIDS last year. She detailed some of the symptoms Bakari suffered as a result of the family’s usual outing to the wading pool.
âThe next morning he had a high fever of 103, then from there he didn’t want to eat or drink. All he wanted was to lie down. It was then that I knew that something was seriously wrong. We had to help her use the toilet. He was so weak, âshe said.
Bakari’s family filed a lawsuit against the city of Arlington on October 4.
âBakari was a loving, gentle and beautiful boy. He didn’t deserve to die this way. For us, this case is about public awareness. The last thing we want is someone else to go through this, âsaid the child’s father, Tariq Williams.
Claiming the city is responsible for the âpreventable tragedy,â lawyer Steven Stewart said, âthe city has decided to ignore the very safety rules designed to prevent this. The water has not been tested or treated most of the time. When that happens, bad things happen.
Calling the loss suffered by Bakari’s family âunimaginable,â said Stewart, âthese state mandates are serious. It’s about Justice and responsibility. We want to make sure all other splash sets are properly maintained and maintained. If you are going to provide this kind of public entertainment, you have to do it right. It is life and death.
The risk of infection with Naegleria fowleri is very low, with just 34 infections reported in the United States between 2010 and 2019, according to the CDC. It infects people when water containing amoeba enters the body through the nose, the city of Arlington explained in a press release. This usually happens when people go swimming or snorkeling in warm freshwater places, such as lakes and rivers. In very rare cases, the amoeba has been identified in other sources, such as insufficiently chlorinated pool water or heated and contaminated tap water.
A Tarrant County Public Health investigation determined two possible sources of Bakari’s exposure to water containing N. fowleri: the family home in Tarrant County or the water jets area of ââthe Don Misenhimer Park in Arlington.
On September 24, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the presence of active N. fowleri amoebae on the splash ramp from water samples and determined that the Arlington site was the likely source of its exposure.
Arlington chief epidemiologist Russ Jones said the bacteria thrive in recirculated water. âWhen they recirculate it, there really has to be two different types of disinfection to prevent that from happening,â Jones said.
But the lack of disinfection caused it, according to the CDC as well as leaders in the city of Arlington who say they feel personally responsible.
Tarrant County Public Health and the City of Arlington said they were informed on September 5 that Bakari had been hospitalized at Cook Children’s Medical Center with primary amebic meningoencephalitis. The city closed Don Misenhimer Park water park that day, immediately after notification of the child’s illness, and proactively closed all public water features for the rest of the year as a precaution.
âIt breaks my heart. I am the father of 4 children. I am a grandfather of 5 children from 2 to 7 years old. I can’t imagine having to bury a child or a grandchild like that, âArlington Mayor Jim Ross said.
The city said all of its playgrounds will remain closed until an investigation is conducted and the water supply has never been affected. Despite Bakari’s death, health experts have said splash guards can be used safely as long as they are properly maintained. Health experts have said the risk of drowning is still 100 times higher than getting this infection. They recommend that parents ask about water features used in other cities, especially if they use recycled water.
Symptoms of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis usually present within nine days of infection, according to the CDC. Other than Bakari, no other case of this infection has been reported to Tarrant County Public Health.
As part of its response plan, the City of Arlington is conducting a comprehensive review of waterjet equipment and supplies, maintenance, and inspection policies, procedures and training water quality to ensure safe recreational spaces for residents and visitors. All of the city’s water features have passed their annual inspection before the start of the summer season. Data from water quality testing, however, showed the need for improvement, city officials said.
“We have identified gaps in our daily inspection program,” said Deputy City Manager Lemuel Randolph. âThese shortcomings have prevented us from meeting our maintenance standards for our splash-proof rinks. All play areas will remain closed until we are satisfied that our systems are functioning as they should, and we have confirmed a maintenance protocol that meets city, county and state standards. “
Records from two of the four play areas, those at Don Misenhimer Park and the Beacon Recreation Center, show that park and recreation employees have not systematically recorded, or in some cases failed to perform, the tests. water quality required before installations. opening every day.
This includes checking for chlorine, which is a disinfectant used to prevent harmful organic material.
When chlorine level readings were below state minimum standards at these locations, the inspection log did not consistently reflect actions taken by city employees to increase chlorination levels. For example, newspapers did not always report how much disinfectant chemical was added manually to the groundwater system.
The logs also did not routinely include a follow-up reading to confirm that the water chlorination levels were at acceptable levels after treatment.
Additionally, a review of inspection logs revealed that water chlorination readings had not been documented at Don Misenhimer’s splash ramp on two of the three dates Bakari had visited the scene. in late August and early September. Documents show that chlorination levels two days before his last visit were within acceptable ranges.
However, the following documented reading, which took place the day after Bakari’s visit, shows that the chlorination level had fallen below the minimum requirement and additional chlorine was added to the water system.