Sources told Channel 2's Tom Jones Elite Scholars Academy that eleventh-grader Imani Bell was running outdoors uphill when she was overcome by heat. Tuesday tied the record for the hottest day on that date in history.

Clayton student who died loved basketball, was set to graduate in 2021

A 16-year-old student athlete who sources said died Tuesday after participating in a conditioning drill at Elite Scholars Academy in Clayton County loved basketball and was set to graduate in 2021.

A family spokesman identified the student as Imani Bell and told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she was running up stadium steps when she collapsed on what meteorologists said was the hottest day in Atlanta in three years. The spokesman, Justin Miller, said Bell’s family is wondering why the student was outside on such a hot day.

“She was a great kid, no problems, no issues, never got in trouble,” Miller said about Bell, who was the oldest of six children. “It’s a big loss.”

Clayton County School officials released a statement late Tuesday night that a student at Elite Scholars Academy has died. 
Photo: Channel 2 Action News

Clayton County Fire Department Battalion Chief Laura Richardson said the distress call to Elite Scholars Academy in Jonesboro came in at 5:52 p.m. When crews responded, they found the 16-year-old female student inside the school.

“Our firefighters found her unresponsive and began treatment,” according to an email from Richardson. “During transport to the hospital the patient became pulseless and stopped breathing. Firefighters administered CPR, began Advanced Cardiac Life Support, and transported her to Southern Regional Medical Center. The patient did regain a pulse during transport and was transferred to Southern Regional Medical Center.”

She was pronounced dead at the hospital.

“Unfortunately she did eventually pass away. We are so sorry for her family’s loss and the pain each one of her classmates are feeling.”

A spokeswoman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said the agency plans to conduct an autopsy on Thursday.

“We are very saddened by the loss of one of our students this evening,” Clayton schools Superintendent Morcease Beasley said in a statement. “The school district is here to support the family of the student and all staff and student body.”

Elite Scholars Academy. AJC file photo

Beasley’s note added that grief counselors and a crisis team would be available for students.

The constitution and bylaws of the Georgia High School Association, the governing body for sports, prohibit outdoor workouts at a wet bulb globe temperature above 92 degrees.

At 90 degrees, the maximum is one hour, with a minimum of 20 minutes of rest breaks distributed through each hour.

Tuesday’s temperature reached 100 degrees.

Jessie Goree, a member of the Clayton County school board, said she was trying to get information about the family and circumstances. “I’m deeply saddened by her passing,” said Goree. “We’re protective of our students. Any parent who sends a child to school expects in the afternoon that you’re going to pick them up.”

Miller, the family spokesman, said Bell was a high-achieving student who also ran track. After graduation, she wanted to play basketball at Stanford University, he said.

Dr. Hany Atallah, chief of emergency medicine at Grady Hospital, said that for athletes, in particular, it’s very important to stay hydrated before, during and after a workout.

He didn’t know particulars about the student’s case and had no idea whether she had a pre-existing medical condition.

However, if she was otherwise healthy, water is key as well as taking frequent breaks while exercising and eating, before you start heavy exercise, to give yourself energy.

“The big thing is to know your limits,” he said. “If you start to feel overheated, you have to take a break. If you had a plan in mind to run 4 miles and you get to 3 miles and you start not to feel well, you stop, especially in heat like this.”

Staff writer Jennifer Brett contributed to this article.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.