Family files lawsuit after 5-year-old sickened in E. coli outbreak

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GASTON COUNTY, N.C. - A Gaston County family filed a lawsuit after their 5-year-old became sick with E. coli.

Hannah Roberts’ mother said she still lives in fear that the E. coli she contracted at the Cleveland County Fair will return and lead to another painful stay at the hospital.

Hannah said she doesn't remember much about her two weeks in the hospital fighting the infection. But what she does remember causes bad dreams.

“She'll wake up crying, screaming sometimes, not wanting to go to the hospital,” Tracey Roberts said.

One hundred and six people were infected with E. coli after visiting the Cleveland County Fair. Two-year-old Gage Lefevers died fighting his infection.

Tracey Roberts said she filed the suit to make sure the fair makes changes to keep people safe in the future.

“Make sure that they are going to take all precautions necessary to make sure this does not happen to another family,” she said.

Investigators determined the petting zoo was the initial source of exposure, and the rain played a role in the widespread contamination.

The lawsuit claims the fair failed to exercise reasonable care in operating the petting zoo, which is still quarantined to this day.

Eyewitness News called the fair director, Calvin Hastings. He said he could not comment about the lawsuit, but his thoughts and prayers are still with those who got sick.

The outbreak and the lawsuit have some, like longtime Cleveland County resident Dewey Dotson, calling for an end to petting zoos at the fair.

“In my opinion, they should close that one down and find something else for the children to do,” Dotson said.