Ladue graduate, 23, dies after contracting E. coli

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by Maggie Crane, News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on August 17, 2012 at 10:10 PM

Updated Saturday, Aug 18 at 7:56 PM

OVERLAND, Mo. (KMOV) -- A 23-year-old is dead after she got E. coli, possibly after eating at a local restaurant. Her family is now asking for an investigation into the restaurant.

Ciera Brookfield told her family that she felt sick after eating at a Chinese restaurant in Overland.

Ciera was just 23 when she passed away on Thursday. Her family says the Ladue Horton Watkins High School grad got sick after eating at Hon's Wok, which is next door to where she worked at Woofie's on Woodson Road.

"She came home about 8 that night. She came in, she laid down on the couch, she said 'mom, I think I have food poisoning,'" said Donna Clark, Ciera's mother.  "I went to work, came back and she was very frantic, saying that she thought it was really bad."

That was last Thursday.  By Friday night Ciera was in the ICU.  Mercy Hospital confirms that she had E. coli.  But Ciera also suffered from Sickle Cell disease, which made the infection worse.

"It went to her blood stream and for a person with sickle cell, it's harder to fight it," Clark said.

As Ciera's family grieves, they want the St. Louis County Health Department to investigate the Chinese restaurant.

"We don't want anybody else to die like my daughter died," Clark said.

But it's important to note that the CDC says E. coli symptoms usually appear three to four days after someone contracts the bacteria but that it can be as short as one day.  Remember, Ciera got sick the same night she told her family that the Chinese food made her ill.

The St. Louis County Health Department cannot confirm that Ciera contracted E. coli at Hon's Wok.  The department is investigating a complaint there but says, at this point, it does not include E. coli.

I looked at the last three health inspections for Hon's Wok, which are free and available online.  A complaint was lodged in May by a police dispatcher who reported finding a spider cooked into her food. 

During a routine inspection in May, inspectors found the restaurant to have 11 violations.  An inspector "observed employees handling raw beef and eggs without washing their hands" and found the "food prep table not sanitized" after it was used.  I asked the manager about it, and she says no one has been sickened by the restaurant before.

"We've been open over 10 years and [nothing] like this [has happened] before," said Thao Vuong, Hon's Wok manager.

Inspectors did go back a week later and found everything fixed. In fact, Hon's Wok scored a perfect 100.

But following Ciera's death, employees say they had to call police after getting a barrage of threatening phone calls once the news hit Facebook.

"It is surprising, because we didn't hear anything from the health department, we didn't hear anything from the police, we just kept getting prank calls," Hon's Wok employee Karamjit Kaur said.  "We didn't even know it was a real statement.  We just kept getting calls from people, and then like when you came and I talked to you, that's when I actually found out what was going on."

The investigation is just getting started.  We'll let you know what the health department finds out.

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