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Central Kentucky family among hundreds sickened after visit to Gatlinburg attraction

Nearly 550 people have reported feeling sick after visiting a popular Gatlinburg zip lining course, including at least one central Kentucky family.

JACKSON COUNTY, Ky. - They never miss their yearly vacation. In line with tradition, they geared up this year and headed south to Tennessee.

Nearly 550 people have reported feeling sick after visiting a popular Gatlinburg zip lining course, among that group is one central Kentucky family.

The common denominator in all of the reported cases was the well water these guests drank on their trips to CLIMB Works in Gatlinburg.

A local health department determined several samples of the well water contained traces of E. coli.

“My nephew was the only one who had a long enough harness that could reach the water, so he would fill our little cups up,” Melissa McDaniel said.

McDaniel said at the time, the water tasted fine, but after they left the attraction, her nephew got sick. Hours later, she did too.

“That next day I was just extremely sore. I felt like somebody had punched me in the midsection, like I was a punching bag” McDaniel said. “We hadn't put any of that together until somebody happened to be looking online and saw some kind of an article about CLIMB Works being investigated.”

Gray-TV sister station WVLT reports the Tennessee Department of Health is still waiting to hear from 2,000 potential survey respondents, who might’ve come in contact with the contaminated well water.

The local Fayette County health department recommends avoiding well water entirely.

“E. coli is something you really don't want to mess around with,” said Kevin Hall of the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department. “We really encourage people when you're out at places, unless it's from a water fountain, you'll want to get water that's in a bottle.”

Regardless of their experience, the McDaniel family says they’ll continue their family tradition.

“That was a bad experience, but I know it wasn't intentional,” Melissa McDaniel said.

CLIMB Works told WVLT it is complying with their local health department, and has begun serving bottled water to all guests.

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