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Civil suit continues 2 years after Cobb student drowns in Belize river

As the mother of Tomari Jackson mourns a second Valentine’s Day without her son, her lawsuit against those she blames for his death continues.

The 14-year-old boy was one of the 32 North Cobb High School students on the international studies magnet trip when he drowned in a Central American river on Feb. 13, 2016.

His mother, Adell Forbes, is suing the nine Cobb schools chaperones who were there and the man who runs the Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary in Belize who planned the trip. 

“It’s a very, very difficult time for my client,” said Tricia “CK” Hoffler, who is representing Forbes.


Read more about Tomari’s death and the lawsuit here.


The suit claims the chaperones and Monkey Bay didn’t do enough to prevent Tomari’s death, nor did they keep an eye on the students — none of whom, Hoffler said, were wearing life vests.

John Stafford, a Cobb schools spokesman, said Monday that the district would not comment because of the pending litigation.

Hoffler said she has deposed Matthew Miller, the owner of Monkey Bay, for at least seven hours. Miller was not immediately available for comment Monday.

She said a team of experts will be heading down to Belize soon to take more depositions and “examine a number of things” but said she couldn’t go into more detail for the sake of the case.

Tomari Aliijah Jackson, a North Cobb High School freshman, died Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, while on a school trip to Belize. This is the camera that was strapped to his head that recorded his death. (Photo: Love FM radio/Belize)

Forbes went on “Good “Morning America” in April to talk about Tomari and show part of a video that recorded his death.

After the program aired, Forbes’ attorneys released to media a video shot from a camera strapped to Tomari’s head that showed him drowning within feet of fellow students —  close enough to touch a girl’s shoulder while underwater.

At one point, he can be heard asking for help; though it sounds like his cries were muted and it’s unclear why.


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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is not publishing the disturbing footage of Tomari’s death from his perspective.

Hoffler said the video, received under what she framed as dubious circumstances, changed the case.

“It confirmed exactly what we thought happened, but we didn’t have the evidence,” she said.

When asked, Hoffler said it is possible more parties could be named in the suit.

Mother talks about Cobb son who died on school trip in Belize (Ben Brasch/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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