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Human Interest

Family of Ohio Teen Who Died From Brain-Eating Amoeba Sues Water Park

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In June 2016, 18-year-old Lauren Seitz tragically died after contracting a brain-eating amoeba during a visit to a popular North Carolina water park.

Exactly one year after her death, the teen’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging that the park, U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, and its builder, Recreation Engineering and Planning Inc., should be held accountable, reports CNN.

The suit is filed in Ohio, where Seitz lived, and claims that park operators showed “conscious disregard for the safety of visitors,” reports the Charlotte Observer.

Mitzi Kline, a spokeswoman for the Franklin County Department of Public Health Department in Ohio, confirmed the teen died from the brain-eating amoeba in a statement to PEOPLE last summer.

The scientific term for the amoeba Seitz contracted is primary amebic meningoencephalitis, an infection caused by Naegleria fowleri, which is an organism that does not cause illness if swallowed, but can be fatal if forced up the nose. It is naturally present in warm lakes during the summer.

The Lauren Elisabeth Seitz Memorial Music Fund/Facebook

According to the lawsuit, Seitz was with her friends on a whitewater raft, when it overturned, exposing her nose to the water, reports CNN.

Symptoms, which include fever, nausea, headache or vomiting, can progress into loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations. They begin about five days after infection and typically cause death within five days, according to the CDC.

Seitz’s youth group returned home to Ohio on June 11, and she died on June 19.

In a written statement to PEOPLE at the time, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said, “The deceased’s only known underwater exposure was believed to be when riding in a raft with several others that overturned at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte.”

The suit seeks damages in excess of $1 million, reports the Columbus Dispatch.

Testing of the park’s filtration and disinfection systems at the time revealed they were not fit to properly clean the center’s water, leaving visitors at risk of infection, the Charlotte Observer reported.

The lawsuit claims chlorine levels were lower than they should have been and water at the park was too shallow to safeguard the public, reports CNN.

According to the outlet, the lawsuit says: “Lauren and other visitors had a higher likelihood of encountering Naegleria fowleri in the unregulated waters of the U.S. National Whitewater Center than they did by simply rafting in the nearby Catawba River.”