Water Park Trip Ends in Tragedy After Man Contracts, Dies from 'Brain-Eating' Organism

A 59-year-old North Carolina man died Monday after contracting the rare Naegleria fowleri parasite while swimming at the Fantasy Lake water park.

Eddie Gray was on a Christian mission trip with the Sedge Garden United Methodist Church of Kernersville when the group decided to stop off at the water park for a day of fun in the sun, according to WRAL.

Gray initially fell ill shortly after the July 12 trip to the water park.

The U.K. Daily Mail reported that medical professionals assessing Gray eventually sent samples to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and found that he did indeed have the rare parasite, also known as the “brain-eating amoeba.”

He died within two weeks.

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Gray loved “kayaking, camping, hunting, fishing, NASCAR, and spending time with his wife,” according to his obituary. His greatest joys were his faith and his family.

Gray’s parasite, a natural inhabitant of warm, freshwater areas, particularly during the summer, does not cause illness in those who swallow it.

But those unfortunate enough to have the organism enter their nose soon suffer a variety of concerning symptoms.

“Swimming in and of itself is not so much of concern,” Duane Holder, interim director of the Cumberland County Health Department, told WRAL.

“Now, diving, jumping in from heights and maybe some of the forceful activity of submerging, those are situations I would make sure I had nose clips, nose plugs, or I’d pinch my nose if I knew I was going to be forcibly entering the water,” he said.

A North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services news release indicated that infections “start with severe headache, fever, nausea and vomiting and progress to stiff neck, seizures and coma.”

Health officials say that there is nothing that can be done to rid lakes and popular swimming holes of the organism.

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The best thing to do is to learn from Gray’s death that proper precautions must be taken while swimming during the summer.

To raise awareness, Fantasy Lake has since posted fliers warning swimmers of the organism, according to WHNT.

Luckily for swimmers, the bacteria is incredibly rare, with only 145 cases nationwide reported between 1962 and 2018. Many of these cases have been fatal, however.

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Andrew J. Sciascia is the supervising editor of features at The Western Journal. Having joined up as a regular contributor of opinion in 2018, he went on to cover the Barrett confirmation and 2020 presidential election for the outlet, regularly co-hosting its video podcast, "WJ Live," as well.
Andrew J. Sciascia is the supervising editor of features at The Western Journal and regularly co-hosts the outlet's video podcast, "WJ Live."

Sciascia first joined up with The Western Journal as a regular contributor of opinion in 2018, before graduating with a degree in criminal justice and political science from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where he served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper and worked briefly as a political operative with the Massachusetts Republican Party.

He has since covered the Barrett confirmation and 2020 presidential election for The Western Journal, and now focuses his reporting on Congress and the national campaign trail. His work has also appeared in The Daily Caller.