BSR cable park under investigation after man dies from amoeba

BSR Cable Park (pictured) is closed until further notice after a man died due to an infection that he may have contracted at the park. Lariat file photo.

By Lizzie Thomas | Staff Writer

Fabrizio Stabile died on Sept. 21 due to an infection by the amoeba naegleria fowleri that he might have contracted while on an outdoor venture at BSR Cable Park near Waco.

According to the GoFundMe page in his honor, Sabile was treated for bacterial meningitis, which was consistent with his symptoms. His condition deteriorated quickly and “tested for a multitude of illnesses caused by various bacteria and viruses but the results were coming back negative or inconclusive,” according to the page.

On the GoFundMe page, Stephanie Papastephanou, the page admin, said, “As family and friends huddled in the ICU waiting room, we were delivered a devastating blow. Fabrizio’s cerebrospinal fluid tested positive for the amoeba, naegleria fowleri… The worst-case scenario was unfolding in front of our eyes as we learned that this infection results in a 98 percent fatality rate.”

According to the page, by the time Stabile was diagnosed, it was too late to administer the drug that has saved only three of five known survivors in North America, which is difficult to acquire. The family and friends gathered were hopeful to the end, but Stabile died on Sept. 21. They created The Fabrizio Stabile Foundation for Naegleria Fowleri Awareness “to bring awareness to and educate as many people as possible about, this rare and preventable infection.” They aim to do this through an annual fundraiser “in hopes that this will not affect another family,” the page says.

Toro Hongoshinban, a friend of Stabile’s who worked with him at Bass Pro Shops in Atlantic City, N.J., for three years said it was privilege to know him.

“He was the nicest guy I worked with,” Hongoshinban said. “In the three years we worked together — I was thinking about it the other day — we never argued, which is surprising for someone you work with every day. He really was a kind soul and lit up whatever room he was in.”

Federal officials are investigating BSR Cable Park on Old Mexia Rd. The park is an 18 minute drive from Baylor’s campus. The park remains closed until further notice pending investigation.

According to Dr. Sanghoon Kang, assistant professor of biology specializing in microbial community ecology, this amoeba, which is a eukaryotic cell, rather than a bacteria, is difficult to treat. The only way a person can get the amoeba is from warm, fresh, untreated water.

“Antibiotics don’t work. Developing medicine is difficult for this particular amoeba,” Kang said.

According to Kang, the amoeba forms a cyst as a sort of seed in order to wait until conditions are ideal temperature-wise. What is so different and rare about naegleria fowleri is that it attaches to tissues in the nose and travels to the brain.

“[BSR Cable Park] complies with CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines. Swimming pools are fine because they are treated with chlorine. Natural water in Texas summer is potentially dangerous,” Kang said.

Though cases of the brain-eating amoebas are extremely rare, Kang recommended those who are concerned for their safety should simply prevent taking untreated water in through their nose or not swimming in untreated water.

BSR Cable Park is a wakeboarding and surf park, among other activities. Stuart Parsons, owner of the surf resort, said their water complies with CDC guidelines, but despite that, they plan on treating their water with chlorine to make it as safe as a pool. He said the test of whether or not the deadly amoeba was in fact in the BSR Cable Park water has not been concluded.

“No matter what results are, we will install a swimming pool type system. He was only in surf and it’s not stagnant — it’s like the ocean. Our prayers are with the family. We hurt for them,” Parsons said.

This is their full statement:

“BSR Surf Resort values the safety of our guests from Texas and all over the United States, and we strive to provide the safest environment for our patrons to enjoy all of our facilities. We test and chlorinate our water. We will continue to comply with requests from the local health department and CDC investigation of the passing of Fabrizio “Fab” Stabile. Our hearts and prayers are with his family, friends, and the New Jersey surf community during this difficult time. BSR Surf Resort operates a state of the art artificial man made wave. We are in compliance with the CDC guidelines and recommendations concerning naegleria fowleri. Naegleria fowleri causes an extremely rare disease with only 145 – 150 recorded cases within the last 65 years. This amoeba is found in freshwater lakes, rivers and ponds across the south, but the disease is a one out of millions occurrence.”