Parents suing Stillwater, State after Lily Lake Fatality

A preliminary hearing is set for Friday as the family of Jack Ariola Erenberg seeks more than $1 million in damages.

The family of the 9-year-old boy who died last summer after swimming in Stillwater’s Lily Lake last August is suing the state of Minnesota, Washington County and the City of Stillwater for $1.5 million, according to an article filed by Mary Divine in the St. Paul Pioneer Press last week. Hearings begin Friday. Dec. 21 in Washington County District Court.

The wrongful death suit on behalf of James Ariola Erenberg, 9, states the local government entities were at fault for not posting warnings about possible Naegleria floweria in the lake, which took the life of a 7-year-old girl back in 2010.

Those are the only two recorded deaths from an amoeba obtained via swimming in a public area in Minnesota history.

Naelgleria amoebas are found in warm, freshwater and can travel through swimmers’ noses to their brains.

Roger Strassberg, an Arizona attorney who has headed wrongful death lawsuits in other states where children have died from the rare, water-borne microorganism, is representing the family.

Ken Harycki, Stillwater mayor, said the claim has been turned over to the League of Minnesota Cities.

Harycki said the beach at Lily Lake remained closed for 2012, and it is not certain whether the beach will open at all for the 2013 swimming season.


Related stories:

  • UPDATE: Boy's Organs Donated After Fatal Brain Infection
  • Local Parents React to 9-Year-Old​'s Death Linked to Lily Lake
  • Lily Lake Property Owners Want More Answers Before Lake is Blamed
  • Expert: Infection by Brain-eating Amoeba Linked to Climate Change
  • Obituary for Jack Ariola Erenberg
Nancy Tomlinson December 20, 2012 at 09:01 PM
It's not a matter of liking it or not. I just do not believe that our cities or our governments are responsible for every little thing that can possibly go wrong and harm us. To hold them to such a high standard is an impossibility. It's these kinds of things that are raising prices and making life much more expensive and regulated that it need be. People need to use some common sense in their activities. And please don't take that as me blaming these poor parents because I don't. I'm just saying that as a parent myself, I would not ever allow my child to swim in any of these waters. Because one never knows. But had my child been with friends who went swimming there, gotten sick and died, I doubt I would have ended up suing anyone. The whole thing is repugnant to me. There is so little of people taking personal responsibility in this country anymore. Always looking for someone to blame when something goes wrong. Well, sometimes things do just go wrong. That's the way it is. Signs or no signs. I am a fatalist. If this poor child had not died of this infection, he may have perished some other way. It isn't fair and it isn't right. It just is. And I'm terribly sorry about the loss of you daughter. No mother should ever have to go through that and I deeply mourn with you. The best to you these holidays.
Blondie8508 December 20, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Thank you-- the holidays are a hard time for any parent that loses a child. I understand your point. I really do. Some people are just going to deal with loss in different ways. Every person copes with loss differently- and if this is part of their grieving process, we can't shun them or shame them for doing what they see fit. Its in no way going to bring that little boy home, but it might give them peace of mind and closure. I don't know their reasoning behind the lawsuit- or the details. I assume its for a wrongful death lawsuit. But in any case- I pray for them and empathize with them. Losing a child is the worst thing in the world to go through. Especially when it is preventable. I agree- there aren't many waters in this area that I will let my kids swim in- but that doesn't mean that other caregivers have those rules- I can't control every aspect of their life... Although I would love to so that I could protect them and keep them safe- I can't. My thoughts and prayers go out to this family in this Holiday season. They will find comfort in time.
T December 20, 2012 at 09:33 PM
I agree with you 100% Nancy. There are just some things out of our own control... And it's not only common sense in a person's activities, but a recognition of what is reasonable and acceptable. Like you say, we're always looking for someone to blame. And here's a case where, honestly, there is NOBODY to blame. Not within a scope of reason, at least. Not the city, and not the parents. Somethings things just happen. Our insurance companies protect themselves with that mysterious "acts of God" clause. Independent of one's beliefs, that's sort of what we have here.
Nancy Tomlinson December 21, 2012 at 07:00 AM
This is in response to Blondie's post regarding how different people deal with loss in different ways. That exact thought went through my mind as I thought about this case. And as I thought about it, it made me even sadder for the parents because by doing this (the lawsuit,) they will be dragging out the agony of losing their child for as long as the lawsuit goes on. And that could be years. Years during which they otherwise could be moving ahead with their lives. I don't know whether they have other children, but having been one of the children 'left behind' myself, I can say that even without one's parents embroiled in legalities, it is a very difficult time for the remaining, living children. So many feelings of "It should have been me." "They wouldn't be so sad if I had died instead of _____" Feelings like that, & others. All of it is hell. And I agree with the anonymous poster who spoke of how statistically rare this was and how many things and events are simply out of our control. For me, the long & the short of it is, it is just best for my heart to let it go...let it be...just let it be what it is. Accept it and move on. After my brother died, my mother said "I'm so glad we had him for the time we did. I wouldn't have missed him for the world." And I feel exactly the same way.
yomammy December 21, 2012 at 11:52 AM
looking forward to being 20 miles deep into the BWCA and to see those comforting, reflective signs.... ...they better post a sign below it saying "this sign has sharp edges...." Just this year I watched ours (and other) kids playing in the muck at a lake. I even thought of this story. It was warm out, and they were chucking mud and splashing water on each other. I let them play anyway, they were having fun, like kids do. we cant protect them from everthing that could possible ever happen (ever seen "Finding Nemo"? Nature does what nature does.


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