CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. — The parents of a 16-year-old basketball player who died after working out in the extreme heat are speaking out about the charges brought against their daughter’s coaches.
Imani Bell collapsed and died while taking part in outdoor basketball conditioning drills at Elite Scholars Academy on Aug. 13, 2019.
Last month, a grand jury indicted Larosa Walker-Asekere and Dwight Palmer, on second degree murder, child cruelty in the second degree, involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct.
Channel 2′s Tom Jones attended a Wednesday news conference held by the Bell family and their attorneys on the new charges.
“Unbelievable. Just unbelievable. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I couldn’t grasp it. At the idea that someone would have their child or the team out in extreme heat,” father Eric Bell said. “It’s just a tragedy that happened with Imani. It should not have happened. We’re just glad the coaches are held accountable.”
This Friday will mark two years since Imani Bell’s death. Bell’s parents said the 16-year-old teen was forced to perform conditioning drills outdoors on one of the hottest days of the summer. The heat index made it feel even hotter.
Jones reached out to the coaches about the charges but the person who answered Palmer’s cell phone number immediately hung up once Jones identified himself as a reporter.
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Earlier on Wednesday, Bell’s parents also spoke with Good Morning America on Channel 2 Action News.
“I didn’t think I was leaving the hospital without my daughter. You know, I thought maybe she was just. Just a little sick whatever. But it didn’t turn out that way. She fought, but she didn’t make it out,” her mother Dorian Bell said.
A 2019 Georgia Bureau of Investigation autopsy indicated Bell suffered from hyperthermia and rhabdomyolysis after exercising in temperatures that reached as high as 97 degrees with a heat index of 103 degrees.
The family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the team’s coaches, the school principal and other staff earlier this year. This is the first time a coaching staff has faced murder charges in a heat-related death of a student-athlete, according to the Bell’s attorneys.
“Imani Bell’s name will now stand for change in sports across this country,” Chris Stewart said.
It’s something that the Bells hope will lead to change.
“We are seeking justice and we need everybody in the world to understand that we need to take this heat seriously. Just be aware of what’s going on in your surroundings, for our kids to listen to your body. If your body is hot, stop,” Eric Bell said.
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