1 child dead, 106 sick from E. coli at NC petting zoo; parents angry, other events cancelling

Several upcoming events are pulling out of the Cleveland County Fairgrounds due to the recent E. coli outbreak.

Health officials say more than 100 people with links to the Cleveland County Fair, held at the fairgrounds earlier this month, have gotten sick. A 2-year-old Gaston County boy died.

On Friday, parents of some of the young victims told Eyewitness News there should be a criminal investigation.

Five-year-old Hannah Roberts was one of the patients hospitalized as a result of the outbreak.

Hannah’s mother, Tracy, told Eyewitness News she was relieved that her daughter’s health is improving. However, Friday she was still praying for the other young E. coli victims.  She also said she was angry that the outbreak happened at all.

“It’s wanting to fight back somehow and help these families and these children,” said Roberts.

All but one of the 106 patients went to the Cleveland County Fair.  Tracy said she was upset because an outbreak had taken place before at another fair.

“If they knew it last year, then by all means, why didn’t you do something this year to stop it?” she said.

After an E. coli outbreak at last year’s state fair, she said Cleveland County’s fair should have done more to protect people.

She said parents should have been warned the animals could carry harmful bacteria.  She also suggested the fair not have animals at all. 

“I think it’s malicious intent to hurt. I personally think that could be criminal,” she said.

Eyewitness News asked the District Attorney’s Office about her comments.  He said so far, he hadn’t received any formal complaints.  As of Friday, the sheriff’s office was not investigating.

Hog Happenin’ event coordinator Lloyd Williams says his event is moving due to public safety concerns.

Williams told media on Saturday he’s concerned the relocation will hurt his efforts to raise money for charity.

“Hopefully we won’t take a hit from a sponsor standpoint, however, the daily attendance is what our concern is, and that’s where a lot of our money comes,” said Williams.

Cleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman said Saturday that his fish fry event scheduled for next week is also moving from the fairgrounds. His 13-year-old son Alex was among the E. coli victims. Norman has told the Charlotte Observer that Alex didn’t need to be hospitalized and plans to return to school soon.