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Lawsuit details ordeal of E. coli victim

Vanessa Ho

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

A lawsuit filed Wednesday over the Snohomish County E. coli outbreak details an alarming scenario in which a 9-year-old girl in severe pain went to the emergency room three times with bloody diarrhea and vomiting after eating at a Lake Stevens restaurant.

Snohomish Health District officials also updated their investigation, saying more people than previously thought became ill after eating at Ixtapa Family Mexican Restaurant.

The latest count of sickened patrons: 17.

The restaurant, located at 303 91st Ave. N.E., shut down Tuesday for sanitization and was approved for reopening Wednesday.

The suit, filed in Snohomish County Superior Court, alleges the restaurant was negligent in preventing the outbreak.

The Lake Stevens girl had eaten there with her sister and parents, Allison and Ray Riojas, on or about Oct. 11.

She ate rice, beans, chips, salsa, guacamole and a chicken enchilada.

Over the next few days, she became progressively sicker and was diagnosed with E. coli poisoning.

She has since lost nine pounds and has been too weak to walk, according to the suit. She is now recovering at home.

Health officials said the sickened people ate at the restaurant between Oct. 2 and Oct. 13, and that the onset of illness was between Oct. 7 and Oct. 17.

After pinpointing the restaurant, public health staffers have been working to identify any specific food connected with the illnesses -- a point emphasized by the restaurant's attorney, Stephen Pidgeon.

"We don't know the source of the bacteria," Pidgeon said. "We are cooperating with the health district to try and discover that source."

The owners of the 17-year-old restaurant are a "well-respected family in the community," he said. "It is our point of view that Ixtapa's top priority is the health of its patrons."

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