Little Boy’s Death Blamed on Petting Zoo

     RALEIGH, N.C. (CN) – A 2-year-old boy died of an E. coli infection he caught at a petting zoo, and 106 people got sick from it, the boy’s parents claim in court.
     Hunter “Gage” LeFevers died on Oct. 12, 2012, twelve days after visiting the petting zoo at the Cleveland County Fair in North Carolina, his parents Joshua and Jessica LeFevers claim in Gaston County Court.
     They sued the Cleveland County Fair, Circle G Ranch: Wild Animal Park, and Camel Safari.
     Cleveland County holds its annual fair each September and October in Shelby, N.C.
     The LeFevers says they took their son to its petting zoo on Sept. 30, 2012, and he fed and touched several animals and straw beddings.
     He was under their direct supervision at all times and they followed all the instructions they received from signs and employees, the LeFevers say in the complaint.
     “After exiting the petting zoo exhibit, Joshua LeFevers attempted to wash Gage’s hands with soap and water, but the wash basin at the exit of the exhibit was out of soap,” the complaint states.
     “While at the fair and later, Gage LeFevers had direct contact with ground, ground covering, food and objects, including shows and strollers contaminated with fecal matter containing E. coli 0157:H7,” the parents say.
     E. coli (Escherichia coli) bacteria live in animal intestines, among other places. It is often harmless, but some genotypes can cause violent food poisoning.
     Gage got sick with gastroenteritis on Oct. 3 and deteriorated until his parents took him to a hospital for evaluation. He was not admitted though he had bloody diarrhea, the parents says.
     It is unclear from the complaint what day they took him to the first hospital.
     His condition continued to deteriorate and on Oct. 8 his parents took him to a pediatric clinic near their home. Doctors sent him to a second hospital, where he was diagnosed with an E. coli 0157:H7 infection and hemolytic uremic syndrome.
     “Gage LeFevers received intensive medical treatment including dialysis over the next several days in the Intensive Care Unit at Levine Children’s Hospital,” his parents say in the complaint.
     The LeFevers seek damages for negligence, and medical and funeral expenses.
     A second lawsuit stemming from the E. coli outbreak at the fair seeks to determine the extent to which the fair’s insurers, ACE American Insurance Co., is obligated to indemnify the Cleveland County Fair for several civil lawsuits.
     The LeFevers are represented by Ralph Meekins of Shelby, N.C.

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