Goddard splash park closed as health officials investigate link to sick children

By: - June 21, 2021 6:36 pm

Cases of a diarrheal infection and several reports from parents of sick and hospitalized children led Tanganyika Wildlife Park to close its splash zone Saturday. (Photo by Lee Jeffs/Unsplash)

TOPEKA — A Goddard splash park is under investigation by state health authorities after several children and families who recently visited were taken to the hospital and suffered from fever, vomiting and diarrhea.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said Sunday it was looking into a possible link between Tanganyika Wildlife Park’s splash park and illnesses reported on Friday. Staff investigated and closed the splash zone on Saturday, citing difficulties with the filtration system in a Facebook post.

“The splash park is a new adventure for us animal people, and it was an issue we could not foresee. We plan to notify everyone as soon as we have a set date for opening,” the post said.

Those who have experienced fever, diarrhea and vomiting after visiting the splash park, which opened last summer, are advised by KDHE and local health officials to fill out a survey to aid the investigation.

The Facebook post attracted more than 1,400 comments, with responses varying from concern to extreme displeasure. Some parents said they had to take children with severe symptoms to the hospital.

“Our entire household has been sick and we’ve gone to the immediate care a few times,” one person wrote. “Very concerned about what was found in the water system.”

Another person wrote: “My family flew in to visit family here and we had to miss our family reunion because we are so sick and we haven’t even seen that side of our family for 14 years. We deserve to know what is wrong”

Akeam Ashford, director of strategic communications for Sedgwick County, said the department was still investigating and did not have any significant findings to report as of Monday afternoon.

He offered general advice for attendees and those headed out the pool in the summer, including washing their hands, avoiding swallowing the water and staying home if they have symptoms of diarrhea.

“Sedgwick County continues to work with KDHE and Tanganyika through this process,” Ashford said. “The county will provide updates as they become available.”

Park director Matt Fouts also called on attendees to be proactive in working with the department if they experience any symptoms. He said it was not the park’s intent to cover anything up and that it would be vigilant in addressing the issue.

Fouts advised those who are feeling sick after visiting the park to notify the health department at [email protected] or 316-660-5555 and seek treatment from their doctor. He promised further updates on the park website.

“As a father whose kids have been playing in the splash park regularly and an uncle whose nephew is working in the splash park daily, I understand and share your safety concerns,” Fouts said. “It is in no one’s best interest, including our family-owned businesses, to have people getting sick due to visiting.

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Noah Taborda
Noah Taborda

Noah Taborda started his journalism career in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri, covering local government and producing an episode of the podcast Show Me The State while earning his bachelor’s degree in radio broadcasting at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Noah then made a short move to Kansas City, Missouri, to work at KCUR as an intern on the talk show Central Standard and then in the newsroom, reporting on daily news and feature stories.

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