Who was Imani Bell? Georgia teen dies doing drills in 'dangerous heat', 2 coaches charged

Who was Imani Bell? Georgia teen dies doing drills in 'dangerous heat', 2 coaches charged
The coaches responsible for the death of 16-year-old Imani Bell (left) — Dwight Palmer (center) and Larosa Walker-Asekere (right) — have been slapped with several charges (Photos by family and Clayton County Police)

CLAYTON COUNTY, GEORGIA: Two basketball coaches have been charged with a number of charges, including second-degree murder and second-degree child cruelty after a teenage girl died while doing drills for the girls’ varsity team in extreme heat. Imani Bell lost her life in August 2019 after falling unconscious while practicing at a charter school in Georgia.

The head basketball coach, Larosa Walker-Asekere, and assistant coach Dwight Palmer, at the Georgia school, have recently been indicted by an Atlanta-area grand jury after Imani died in August 13, 2019, due to the outdoor basketball practice in the blistering sun. They have been slapped with second-degree murder, second-degree child cruelty, involuntary manslaughter, and reckless conduct for conducting the outdoor training in “dangerous heat.”


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Who was Imani Bell?

Imani was a 16-year-old girl and a student at the Elite Scholars Academy. On the fateful day, she was doing a conditioning drill for which she had to run up and down the football stadium steps. That day, the temperature had touched the high 90s, with the heat index reaching as high as 106 degrees, according to the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family’s lawyers in February against school administrators.

Imani’s father, Eric Bell, said at a press conference on Wednesday, August 11, “The tragedy that happened with Imani shouldn’t have happened.” Eric, who is a coach at another school, also mentioned that the day when he lost his daughter, his institution canceled practice. He added that he cannot understand “the idea that someone would have their child or the team out in the extreme heat.”

The lawsuit, seeking monetary damages and removal of school officials, has also alleged that Walker-Asekere and Palmer ignored a heat advisory that was issued that day in the area where the school is situated at 4:30 in the evening. The school junior “struggled to run up the stadium steps as directed” while practicing because of the heat. She had to take the help of a railing to stand on her feet before collapsing at the top of the stairs. At around 6 pm, school authorities took medical help as Imani had to be intubated and rushed to Southern Regional Hospital, where she eventually died.

An autopsy by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations revealed that the teenager’s cause of death was only “heat stroke caused by strenuous physical exertion in extreme temperatures” as she had no other medical condition. Imani’s devastated mother, Dorian Bell, told ‘Good Morning America’, “I didn’t think I wasn’t leaving the hospital without my daughter. But it didn’t turn out that way. She fought, but she didn’t make it out.”

Justin Miller, a lawyer representing the family, added: “The rules weren’t followed and they had rules that would have helped her stay alive. They were supposed to have ice baths and things of that nature there if they were outside in the heat and they didn’t have that.” Meanwhile, the head coach’s attorneys told WXIA-TV that she “was on her first day as coach of the girls basketball team, and she was relying on the direction of the athletic director and Elite Scholars Academy personnel to conduct this conditioning activity.”

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