BSR officials tried to cover up evidence of a deadly brain-eating amoeba that possibly led to the death of a New Jersey surfer last year by “hyper-chlorinating” the surf pool on the eve of a federal health agency investigation, the surfer’s lawyer said Thursday.
Houston attorney Richard Fass, who represents the parents of Fabrizio Stabile, also charged that the water park’s owner, Stuart Parsons Jr., is stonewalling the discovery process in the wrongful death lawsuit by claiming text messages and emails potentially important to the plaintiffs’ case were lost when Parsons dropped his cellphone in Lake Whitney.
Rita and Vincenzo Stabile, the mother and father of the 29-year-old surfer, are seeking more than $1 million from BSR Surf Resort, Parsons Barefoot Ski Ranch and BSR Cable Park in their suit filed in April in Waco’s 414th State District Court.
The lawsuit alleges “BSR’s blue-green dyed waves masked a pathogen soup in which Naegleria fowleri amoeba — ‘the brain-eating amoeba’ — could thrive.”
Stabile, an avid surfer, and a group of friends traveled from New Jersey to surf at the park Sept. 8 last year.
“While he was surfing and in the water at BSR Surf Park, Naegleria fowleri amoebae from BSR’s toxic water entered into Fabrizio Stabile’s nose and migrated into his brain,” the suit alleges. “Once there, the amoeba fed on brain and other cells, causing horrific injury and pain, and ultimately Fabrizio Stabile’s death on Sept. 21, 2018.”
Parsons, who said this week that a sale of water park is under contract but not finalized, has denied that conditions at the park led to Stabile’s death.
“Only God knows where he got the amoeba,” Parsons has said.
Parsons’ attorney, Brittney Angelich, of Dallas, declined comment after a pretrial hearing in the case Thursday. Parsons did not return a phone message Thursday.
Fass filed motions to compel BSR officials to comply with ongoing discovery requests in the case and told Judge Vicki Menard on Thursday he does not trust Parsons and his staff to fully provide evidence he is seeking.
Angelich told the judge her clients have complied with discovery in the case to the best of their abilities. The judge granted the plaintiffs’ motions, ordering them to provide documents BSR officials have not yet supplied.
Mendard has set a Jan. 27 trial date for the lawsuit.
Fass told Menard he seeks emails and text messages relating to “BSR’s cover-up chlorination” purchases and is skeptical of Parsons’ claims he did not have a backup system in place for his cellphone data that would allow information to be recovered from the phone he said was lost in Lake Whitney.
“He has to be the only Verizon customer in the history of the world whose data is not backed up in the cloud,” Fass told Menard.
Angelich said “there is nothing nefarious going on” and assured the judge BSR officials are trying their best to comply with discovery in the case.
Fass remained doubtful and said no records have been produced about purchases of chlorine and no text messages or emails have been produced involving the company’s response to Stabile’s death or related investigations by state and local health officials and the Centers for Disease Control.
Fass told the judge BSR officials “hyper chlorinated” the surf pool on the night before CDC officials arrived to inspect it, an act Fass called a cover-up that skewed the test results. Fass said health department documents he has obtained indicate the high level of chlorine in the surf pool during testing.
According to the lawsuit, a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with officials from the state and local health departments, inspected the water park and took water samples. The results of those inspections, the lawsuit alleges, “are a powerful indictment of BSR.”
The tests found Naegleria fowleri in BSR’s cable park section but not in its lazy river, Royal Flush slide area, Surf Resort or a groundwater-fed reservoir that supplies the attractions, according to an October 2018 CDC report. However, the CDC reported favorable conditions for the amoeba, and the presence of other amoebas that thrive in similar conditions, in other attractions.
“The CDC wrote: ‘The presence of fecal indicator organism (total coliforms, enterococci), viable thermophilic ameba, and high turbidity indicate a treatment failure, and when the water is warm, would create conditions amendable to Naegleria fowleri growth,” the suit states.
After the CDC testing, officials reported the exposure to the amoeba “likely occurred at this facility.”
Since Stabile’s death, BSR has installed a $2 million, “state-of-the-art” filtration system approved by Texas Department of State Health Services and the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, Parsons has said.