Teen Died After Team Workout. Now Coaches Are Charged

Imani Bell collapsed of heat stroke during basketball drills
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2021 1:00 AM CDT
2 Coaches Charged With Murder in Student's Heat Death
Dwight Broom Palmer and Larosa Maria Walker-Asekere.   (Clayton County Police)

Two years after the tragic death of a Georgia 16-year-old who collapsed due to heat stroke during her school basketball team's mandatory drills, two coaches have been charged with murder in her death. Imani Bell was climbing the football stadium steps on Aug. 13, 2019, when she collapsed at Elite Scholars Academy in Jonesboro. The heat index in the area that day reached 103 degrees, and the county had issued a heat advisory instructing sports teams not to practice outdoors, CBS News reports. A grand jury indicted coaches Larosa Maria Walker-Asekere and Dwight Broom Palmer on charges of second-degree murder, second-degree cruelty to children, involuntary manslaughter, and reckless conduct. They were arrested in July and have since been released on bond, 11Alive reports.

The grand jury found, per the indictment, that the coaches caused "excessive physical pain by conducting outdoor conditioning training for student athletes in dangerous heat." In a lawsuit filed by Bell's family in February, they say the coaches saw that the teen was experiencing signs of heat illness but told her to continue with the drills anyway, People reports. According to an autopsy report, after she struggled to climb the stadium stairs, one of the coaches "may have physically assisted her up the stairs" rather than allowing her to stop. Her father says that while emergency room doctors revived his daughter twice, her body temperature was so high, she "went right back into cardiac arrest"—all while he was there, looking on. The teen had no underlying health conditions and was found to have died of hyperthermia. (More Georgia stories.)

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