Richland E. coli Victim Dies - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Richland E. coli Victim Dies

RICHLAND, Wash. - A Richland woman who contracted E. coli during a nationwide scare is now dead.

Last September, 83-year-old Betty Howard got sick from E. coli contaminated spinach. After months of going in-and-out of the hospital she finally died Friday morning.

The Benton County Coroner has not yet determined how Betty died. But if E. coli caused her death, she will be the fourth spinach E. coli fatality in the country. And her family wants that to count for something.

Betty Howard was a great grandmother, a retired secretary, and a woman with a love for the outdoors.

"We had a life time of memories with Mom and Dad.  They loved to travel.  We went to almost every state this side of the Mississippi, the Grand Canyon, and Fishing, " said Darryl Howard, Betty's son.  

But now those memories are all Betty's three sons have left.

Last September doctors treated her at Kadlec Medical Center in Richland, and she later recovered. But her family believes complications from the bacteria became too much for her body to handle.

"It got to where it put her down and she never got up," said Howard.    

But Betty wasn't alone, nearly 200 people across the country got sick from E. coli contaminated spinach. A spokesman for the Benton Franklin Health District said the outbreak shows we may need to do more than simply wash our foods before we eat them. One idea suggests cleaning food through radiation.

"If we continue having these outbreaks, people might have to consider it. It's politically sensitive, it's a good public health measure. Food irradiation would save a lot of lives," said Dr. Larry Jecha, Benton Franklin Health District.   

As for the Howards, they hope food companies will notice their mother's death and change the way they process their products.

"And Mom said, if I can do something to save somebody else's life down the road, so be it," said Howard. 

As we told you the Benton County Coroner is still investigating if E. coli caused Betty Howard's death.

He said he's looking at her medical history and plans to make a decision as soon as possible.