Lawsuit Over Boys Who Died From Rare Illness Settled

Wednesday, February 14th 2007, 12:00 pm
By: News On 6

It’s a story that terrified many parents, two young boys killed by a mysterious and deadly amoeba thought to be lurking in stagnant water at city splash pads. The victim's families filed a lawsuit against the city of Tulsa on Tuesday, and it was settled by Wednesday. The families will split $315,000.

The News On 6's Heather Lewin reports the city did not admit negligence in the case, because it was never proven that the deadly amoeba that killed the boys came from the city splash pad.

"Nobody in this world could've ever imagined a child going to the park and getting sick off some water at the park," said a Terrell Hampton’s uncle Arthur Hampton.

But in August of 2005, Terrell Hampton and Martinez Owens contracted a frightening and painful illness then suddenly died. Hampton and Owens didn't know each other, but had both gone to the Mohawk Splash Pad and both had been exposed to a deadly amoeba called Naegleria, present in stagnant water. City workers cleaned the area and searched for the microscopic culprit. Naegleria was found, but whether it was the kind that killed the boys, remained in question.

“A park shouldn't be a place, there's enough perils at the park, without natural stuff that can be avoided," Hampton said.

The city has completely revamped the Mohawk splash pad, grading the area to prevent any standing water, and making it a freshwater feed. The water no longer recirculates, it now passes over you only once, then ends up down the drain. Park officials say there is now no danger of contracting the amoeba again at any of Tulsa's splash pads. Still, the Hampton family would prefer this park be paved over.

"It's not about settlements and whose fault it is or whatever, it's about adjusting and overcoming a loss, a great loss," said Hampton. "Our main concern is that nobody else has to suffer."

The Naegleria amoeba lives in warm, stagnant water and enters the body through the nasal passages then ultimately attacks the brain. Arthur Hampton says he now fears for the safety of other children and is nervous anytime he sees stagnant water where they might play.