Family of surfer who died from brain-eating amoeba sues Texas resort

by Kim Boateng Posted on April 17th, 2019

Waco, Texas: The mother of Fabrizio Stabile, a New Jersey man who died of a rare “brain-eating amoeba” after visiting a Texas surf resort has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the water park. Fabrizio Stabile’s story made headlines last fall: He visited a surf park near Waco and 13 days later, on Sept. 21, he was dead from a brain-eating amoeba. He was 29.

Now his mother, Rita Stabile, has filed a wrongful death suit against the Texas company, Parsons Barefoot Ski Ranch, or BSR, seeking more than $1 million in damages.

BSR could have prevented her son’s death “had they exercised ordinary care in the operation of their water park,” alleges the civil suit, filed April 9 in McLennan County District Court.

Park owner Stuart Parsons wrote in an email Tuesday, “Our hearts go out to the family of Fab. Only God knows where he got the ameoba (sic).” Plaintiff’s attorney Brian Wunder declined to comment.

A new water filtration system was installed in the surf park after Stabile’s death, according to a video posted to the attraction’s Facebook page. And the park, which closed for the winter shortly after the incident, is now open to surfers.

David Litke, environmental health manager for the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, said district employees inspected the new system in March prior to the park’s opening.

Stabile, described in the suit as the only son in a tight-knit family, decided last summer to go with friends from New Jersey to the park, according to the court document.

BSR is known for its artificial wave that patrons can surf, an increasingly popular trend that has raised questions over how such facilities should be regulated.

A similar park in Austin, NLand Surf Park, is regulated under new “artificial swimming lagoon” legislation that passed in 2017. Litke said he believes BSR falls in the same category.

“Last year that was the big question: What are these things?” Litke said.

The law requires that lagoons be maintained “in a sanitary condition,” but specific enforcement standards are still being finalized by the Department of State Health Services. The standards are expected to be published this summer.

Unbeknownst to Stabile, the suit says, the park’s “blue-green dyed waves masked a pathogen soup in which Naegleria fowleri amoeba — the ‘brain-eating amoeba’ — could thrive. ”

Test results from health officials found his “exposure likely occurred” at the park. The report found conditions “favorable” for the amoeba’s growth.

The organism is commonly found in warm, fresh water but, according to the CDC, not in well-maintained pools.

Prior to installing the new filtration system, Litke said, the water at the surf park wasn’t treated — save for an occasional large dose of chlorine.

Parsons, the owner, wrote in his email that operators “put chemicals in the water to make it safe.” He noted that the amoeba, which rarely infects people, was not found in the surf park water. (It was found at another attraction at BSR.)

BSR invested significantly in the new water systems, Parsons wrote, and his 2-year-old twins play in the water. He said the surf was full daily.

“I don’t want a chance of it even happening,” Parsons wrote.

The lawsuit states the company owed it to its customers “to maintain the water in a safe condition.” It continues: “Defendants breached their duty to keep the water safe.”

Health officials say testing found evidence of the rare but deadly amoeba at one of the four attractions at the BSR Cable Park and Surf Resort in Waco. Fabrizio Stabile was 29 when he died on Sept. 21 from an infection, which can happen when contaminated water enters the body through the nose.

Rita Stabile’s lawsuit seeks more than $1 million. The lawsuit was filed last week. It alleges the park’s blue-green dyed waters “masked a pathogen soup” that allowed the amoeba to thrive.

The park says it’s since installed a new water filtration system.

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