By Victor Omondi

The basketball coaches who oversaw the practice session that resulted in the death of a teen two years ago have been charged with murder, cruelty to children, involuntary manslaughter, and reckless behavior.

Imani Bell, 16, raced up and down a hill, did jumping jacks, circled a football field, and then jogged up a set of stadium stairs with her high school basketball team on a 97-degree August day in Clayton County, Ga.

According to an autopsy report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation cited by 11Alive, Imani had nearly reached the top of the stairs when she leaned into a handrail and passed out. According to the report, Bell had a heart attack as a result of the severe heat, which also caused hyperthermia and rhabdomyolysis (muscle tissue disintegration).

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Imani’s father, Eric Bell, a youth basketball coach near Atlanta, said during a news conference Wednesday, “Today is a bittersweet day for the family. It’s just a time of grieving.”

Imani was the oldest child in her family, according to her father. Her family stated she’d previously completed difficult classes for college credit as a high school junior and would have started university this autumn.

Due to delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Clayton County District Attorney Tasha Mosley said it took two years to pursue charges against Elite Scholars Academy coach Larosa Maria Walker-Asekere and assistant coach Dwight Broom Palmer, according to the Journal-Constitution. A request for comment on the accusations was not immediately returned by a counsel named for the defendants.

In February, Imani’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the coaches and athletic director, as well as other school officials. The suit claims that the coaches saw Imani straining in the heat but instead of acting to keep her safe, they forced her to go above her body’s limit.

Extreme heat has long been a threat to young athletes who’re otherwise healthy. Bodies can quickly begin to collapse in irreversible ways when exposed to severe temperatures. Despite the dangers, some athletic teams, including at least one in Georgia, have refused to establish practice limits when the temperature becomes too high.

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