Clayton County

High school basketball player dies after practice in extreme heat, sources say

CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. — A 16-year-old high school basketball player has died after participating in practice Tuesday during extreme heat, sources tell Channel 2 Action News.

Sources told Channel 2's Tom Jones that 11-grader Imani Bell, who attended Elite Scholars Academy in Clayton County, was running outdoors uphill when she was overcome by heat.

Tuesday tied the record for the hottest day on that date in history.

Jones talked to Bell's father, who said he still doesn't have a lot of information about the circumstances of his daughter's death, but he wondered why she was outside on an extremely hot day.

"My baby is gone," he told Jones over the phone.

Clayton County Emergency Medical Services confirmed that firefighters found the teen unresponsive inside the school around 6 p.m.

Paramedics were briefly able to get Bell's pulse back, but she later died at Southern Regional Medical Center.

"We are so sorry for her family's loss and the pain each one of her classmates are feeling," officials said in a statement.

Clayton County Schools confirmed the death of the student late Tuesday night but wouldn't release any other information.

“We are very saddened by the loss of one of our students this evening. The school district is here to support the family of the student and all school staff and student body,” officials with the district said in a statement.

A spokesperson told Jones the case is an active investigation and she could make no additional comments.

The district said grief counselors and a crisis team are at the school to provide support today.


Jones talked to student Lani Hernandez, who said lots of students are devastated.

"A lot of people were upset," Hernandez said. "I can notice in their faces. Like one of my teachers. They were really upset."

Hernandez said people kept asking one question:

"Why would this happen to a girl ... at such a young age?" Hernandez said.

Three sources told Jones that Bell was participating in an outdoor basketball drill when she collapsed. Those sources said she was running a mile up hills in the heat with no water or breaks.

Lani Hernandez's father, Luis Hernandez, said it was disturbing to learn no water was provided.

"It was super hot yesterday," Luis Hernandez said. "I mean, I do outside work, and we keep a cooler with water, Gatorade, sodas, because you just have to have it."

Parent Anthony Butts has a ninth grade daughter who plays sports at the high school. He said he instructs her to stay hydrated and take breaks when she needs to.

"I don’t have the full extent of what happened, but I’m sure this is going to be a learning experience for everyone," Butts said. "It's just unfortunate. My prayers go out to the family and all the Elite students and staff that have to deal with this."