Parents of teen who died of heat stroke after workout sue coach, school officials

CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. — The family of a Clayton County basketball player who died after participating in workout drills during extreme heat has filed a lawsuit against the coach and school officials.

Channel 2′s Tom Jones attended a news conference Wednesday held by Imani Bell’s parents and their attorney.

The lawsuit names the team’s coach, the athletic director, principal and assistant principal of Elite Scholars Academy among others as negligent parties in her death.

“We, um, every day are learning to live with the loss of our daughter,” her mother Dorian Bell said.

“She was in love with life,” her father Eric Bell said.

Jones first reported on Bell’s death when his sources told him about her death on Aug. 13, 2019.

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 in 2019. The heat index made it even hotter.

A Georgia Bureau of Investigation autopsy from 2019 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.

Bell’s parents said they still haven’t heard the whole story about what led to their daughter’s death at her school.

“And we need that. That’s a part of our healing,” Dorian Bell said.

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It’s part of the reason why the family filed a lawsuit. Jones reached out to the Clayton County School District, which said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

The Bell family’s attorney said Imani went into distress during a mile run, going up and down stadium steps in temperatures in the 90s.

“She couldn’t finish the mile run,” Chris Stewart said.

The conditioning drills may have violated the county’s guidelines on outdoor workouts, Channel 2 previously reported. Clayton County Schools said there was no heat advisory warning staff to keep kids inside because of the extreme heat that day.

The Bell’s attorneys said the coaches were warned via email the day before Imani died to follow state outdoor safety rules.

“Criminal charges need to happen and need to go forward against some of these people,” attorney Justin Miller said. “Because this is ridiculous.”

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