EXCLUSIVE: Shocking video of teen's drowning may lead case to court
It was a parent’s worst nightmare.
“The first call said he was missing and now you're telling me that you found his body! So it was just utter disbelief," said Adell Forbes in a CBS46 exclusive.
Forbes vividly remembered the horrific day in February 2016 when she got news of her son Tomari Jackson’s death.
“I was told that nobody knew what happened, but once I saw the video I realized that how could you not know what happened,” added Forbes.
Tomari was on Cobb High School’s annual trip to Belize. The students landed in the country and prior to going to the hotel they stopped at the Sibun River. Tomari was equipped with a GoPro which captured everything including his drowning.
“You can just tell Tomari is having difficulty swimming and you can hear him yell for help three times,” said Forbes’ attorney CK Hoffler. “You can see him reaching out and the kids basically ignoring him and you can also see what the chaperones are not doing.”
A wrongful death lawsuit was filed against Cobb County, the school district, the chaperones, and Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary where the trip was being held.
The case against the county, the school district and some of the chaperones was dismissed because they have immunity. In addition a trial court dismissed the claims against the remaining defendants, finding based on Belize law they filed too late.
However, a recent appellate court decision reversed the trial courts ruling, stating the dismissal violated Georgia public policy and now some of the people involved could be held accountable. A ruling Hoffler agrees with.
“We took the position that this was a Georgia field trip, from a Georgia school, Georgia children, Georgia chaperones, Georgia death, and we thought that the state of Georgia had an interest in what happens to its citizens when traveling abroad,” added Hoffler.
And in a strange twist of events, the GoPro video that is now a key piece of evidence was original missing.
“Unfortunately when his body was found in the Sibun River there was no GoPro that of course raised our eyebrows because it was attached to his body. Then a year later, miraculously we get a courier from the US embassy where the GoPro had been found” said Hoffler.
And now with the key piece of evidence on her side Forbes is hopeful the lawsuit will bring closure but she knows it will never undo what happened.
“I"m constantly reminded of it and I wonder what Tomari would have been doing. His class graduated in May and that was hard for me because that is a mild stone he missed.
A new trial date has not been set as of yet.