The attorneys representing the family of the young boy who died after likely becoming infected with a deadly amoeba at an Arlington splash pad stood alongside the child's parents at a news conference Monday afternoon and announced they'd filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Arlington.
The attorneys shared photos and identified the child as 3-year-old Bakari Williams. Williams visited the city's Don Misenhimer park before being hospitalized at Cook Children's Medical Center with primary amebic meningoencephalitis. He died Sept. 11.
Bakari's parents, Tariq Williams and Kayla Mitchell described their son as energetic and loving.
"We just want you all to know that Bakari was a loving, energetic, compassionate, sweet, beautiful, innocent boy. He didn’t deserve to die in this manner," said Tariq Williams, Bakari's father.
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"He has always been a big ball of energy, it is very quiet at home without him," said Bakari's mother, Kayla Mitchell.
They said they'd visited the splash park several times including at least three visits leading up to the time of his death.
The lawsuit accuses the city of failing to maintain basic maintenance of the splash pad and failing to adequately treat the water supply, posing a risk to the general public. Attorneys want the case to go before a jury and are asking for more than $1 million in damages.
"When you have public amusements like the splash pad you just have to step up and do what is mandated by the state of Texas and they didn’t do it," said attorney Stephen Stewart.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday confirmed water samples taken from the splash pad tested positive for Naegleria fowleri ameba and that the splash pad was the likely source of the exposure to the deadly parasite.
The City of Arlington said the splash pad and all others in the city were closed after the city learned of the child's hospitalization on Sept. 5.
Lemuel Randolph, Arlington's Deputy City Manager, said last week that the city hadn't met its maintenance standards at its splash pads and "identified gaps in our daily inspection program.”
Randolph said in a statement that all of the splash pads will remain closed until they have assurance systems operating as they should and that a maintenance protocol is in effect that is consistent with the city, county, and state standards.
What is Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM)?
PAM is a rare and often fatal infection caused by the Naegleria fowleri ameba. The parasite, commonly known as the brain-eating amoeba, typically infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. Once the ameba enters the nose, it travels to the brain where it causes PAM, which is usually fatal.
The CDC reports "infection typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places, like lakes and rivers. In very rare instances, Naegleria infections may also occur when contaminated water from other sources (such as inadequately chlorinated swimming pool water or heated and contaminated tap water) enters the nose 1-4. You cannot get infected from swallowing water contaminated with Naegleria."
The risk of N. fowleri infection is very low, with 37 reported infections in the United States between 2010 and 2020, and only 151 since 1962, according to the CDC. Most infections, according to CDC data, present in July and August.
Symptoms of PAM typically present within nine days of infection, according to the CDC. Other than this child, there have been no other instances of this infection reported to Tarrant County Public Health.
The most recent case of PAM in North Texas claimed the life of 10-year-old Lily Avant who died in 2019 nearly a week after doctors confirmed she had contracted Naegleria fowleri swimming in a river near her home in Whitney.