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Family of child killed by brain-eating amoeba files lawsuit against City of Arlington

"If you're going to offer this type of public amusement you've got to do it right. It's too serious not to. It's life and death," said attorney Stephen Stewart.

ARLINGTON, Texas — The parents of a child killed by a brain-eating amoeba linked to a City of Arlington parks splash pad filed a lawsuit Monday, just days after the mayor admitted the city "absolutely failed."

Bakari Williams, 3, became ill in early September. His parents said it was the day after playing at the splash pad at Don Misenhimer Park. They rushed him to an urgent care facility when he developed a fever approaching 103 degrees. 

He was taken to Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, where he was diagnosed with primary amebic meningoencephalitis caused by the Naegleria fowleri amoeba. The child died on Sept. 11.

"We don't want another innocent child to die from this brain-eating amoeba," said attorney Stephen Stewart. "That's crazy coming out of my mouth. A brain-eating amoeba! A little chlorine and this child would have been here today."

Stewart, along with attorney Brian Hargrove and the boy's parents Kayla Mitchell and Tariq Williams, stood at the now-closed splash pad and announced their lawsuit against the City of Arlington.

"Let me be very clear," Hargrove said, "the City of Arlington is responsible for Bakari's death."

"It's a bit difficult to get used to that at home," Mitchell said, "like how quiet it is."

"Bakari was a loving, energetic, passionate, sweet, beautiful, innocent boy. He didn't deserve to die in this manner," said Williams, the boy's father.

"We absolutely failed," said Arlington Mayor Jim Ross in a Sept. 27 interview with WFAA. He said poor oversight likely contributed, water quality testing was not done consistently and chlorination had fallen below minimum requirements.

The Centers for Disease Control confirmed the presence of the amoeba in water samples taken from the Arlington splash pad.

"We shut down all of our splash pads," Ross said. "We messed up. We screwed up and we own it."

"While I appreciate the mayor owning it, as he said, this is about righteousness, it's about fairness, it's about justice, it's about accountability," said Stewart.

Accountability through a lawsuit of at least a million dollars. But attorneys ask what price would ever be enough? This is a family that also lost a child to sudden infant death syndrome just two years ago.

"If you're going to offer this type of public amusement," said Stewart of the now-closed splash pad, "you've got to do it right. It's too serious not to. It's life and death."

WFAA contacted a spokesperson for the City of Arlington Monday afternoon for additional comment. They said they had not yet seen the lawsuit and could not offer additional comment at this time.

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