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Man claims he contracted eye-eating parasite riding Kennywood's 'Raging Rapids'

Ben Schmitt
| Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, 9:06 p.m.
Raging Rapids at Kennywood Park.
Kennywood Park
Raging Rapids at Kennywood Park.
The Raging Rapids ride at Kennywood Park on Tuesday May 27, 2014.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
The Raging Rapids ride at Kennywood Park on Tuesday May 27, 2014.

A Pittsburgh man claims in a lawsuit that a ride on the Raging Rapids at Kennywood left him with a parasite that “eats away at the cornea of the eye.”

The lawsuit filed this week by Robert Trostle and his wife, Krystsina, in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court claims he was splashed in the left eye by dirty water that contained a parasite known as microsporidia. Doctors have not been able to completely kill off the parasite, according to the lawsuit.

During a trip to Kennywood on July 2, “while in line, the Trostles noticed the water surrounding the Raging Rapids was dirty, stagnant and sludge-like,” the lawsuit said. “Additionally, the Trostles noticed the waterfall was not operating.”

Robert Trostle was splashed toward the end of the ride, “which is customary for those riding the Raging Rapids.”

The splash led the parasite to embed in Trostle's eye, according to the lawsuit, which alleges negligence against Kennywood Entertainment Inc.

His left eye became inflamed, and he was treated July 5 for acute conjunctivitis with antibiotics. But his condition worsened, and doctors diagnosed him on July 14 with microsporidia keratitis.

“Robert had to undergo an extremely painful surgery where the parasite was scraped out of the eye with a surgical scalpel, and he was required to remain in a dark room for the next two days,” according to the lawsuit. “The microsporidia parasite penetrated the second level of Robert's eye and the entirety of the parasite was unable to be removed via surgery.”

He still suffers from inflammation, blurry vision, redness and pain, the lawsuit said.

The Raging Rapids simulates a whitewater rafting excursion and opened in 1985, according to Kennywood's website.

The Trostles, of Squirrel Hill, are represented by Pittsburgh attorney Alan Perer, who told the Tribune-Review Thursday that the Allegheny County Health Department took samples from the ride's water after the incident. He said the health department would not provide results, despite Perer filing a Right To Know request in the fall.

“That's one of the reasons we filed suit,” Perer said. “We need more information. But we're virtually certain this is how he got the parasite.

The county health department issued a statement Thursday afternoon.

“This was reported to the Health Department during the summer,” health department spokesman Ryan Scarpino wrote in an email. “ACHD notified the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and assisted them with the investigation. At this time, the investigation is still ongoing, and no further information is available.”

Kennywood spokesman Nick Paradise said he could not comment on pending litigation. He said safety of all rides and water are a “top priority” at Kennywood.

In June, the family of a teen who contracted a brain-eating amoeba after rafting at a North Carolina water park, sued the facility.

The lawsuit on befalf of Lauren Seitz, 18, alleged the U.S. National Whitewater Center's rafting channels were dangerous and that park operators showed “conscious disregard for the safety of visitors.”

Seitz, of Westerville, Ohio, died of a rare brain infection caused by a single-celled animal, the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, days after visiting the center on June 8, 2016, with a church group , according to the Charlotte Observer. She was in a raft that overturned. The amoeba can infect a person when water goes up the nose and infections are rare, but almost always fatal. the Observer reported.

The park closed down for nearly two months and a federal epidemiologist found that filtration and disinfection systems were inadequate to properly clean the facility's waters.

A park employee complained that its water quality caused raft guides to routinely contract staph infections, ringworm and other skin illnesses, the Observer reported. Dead animals and trash were commonly found floating on the water's surface, the employee said.

The park wound up changing its filtration and disinfection system.

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991, bschmitt@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @Bencschmitt.

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