By Jill Fox
After 14-year-old Isabella “Bella” Carrerou was severely injured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when an estimated 200 pounds of band equipment accidentally fell on her, her parents are trying to figure out why the safety and security of the students is not the top priority they believed it was.
Bella, who has been in the band since sixth grade, is one of a handful of freshmen in the honors symphonic band at the school. She loves music, and her goal is a college scholarship. However, Bella can no longer twist, bend, or lift more than ten pounds, which makes playing her trombone nearly impossible.
The accident happened on October 5, while Bella was at a marching band rehearsal. Her mother explained she walked by some heavy frames, used to hold band equipment when they fell on her covering her completely. After the loud commotion of the equipment hitting the floor, students and parent volunteers rushed to pick up the props and found Bella underneath, unable to walk.
Her mother, Carina, received a call from a Marching Eagles Parent Association volunteer informing her about Bella’s injury. However, the female caller left out any sense of urgency, so upon arrival at school, Carina wasn’t expecting to see Bella hunched over in pain.
“I was told everything was fine, don’t be alarmed. Isabella just hurt her back and wants to be picked up,” said Carina.
There was no 911 call, and no incident report, until days later, for an injury Bella’s neurosurgeon said, was equivalent to falling off of a three-story building or hitting a wall in a car going 80 mph, which is what has the Carrerou family demanding change.
“911 should have been called,” said Bella’s father, Ruben. “During an incident, whether a kid gets a black eye, or someone sprains their ankle, who the hell is deciding what’s best for the children?”
Due to it being a Saturday afternoon band practice, the school was closed, and parent volunteers and the band directors were the only adults supervising. The volunteers said they were told the school policy is to call 911 only when a student is unconscious.
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of,” said Carina, who argued the school needs to change their policies and the protocol, and someone with medical training should always be onsite.
After moving to the Heron Bay community in Parkland from Miami in 2012, Carina said everyone always asked her how she could send Bella to MSD, and her answer has always been that it was the safest high school in the country.
“I felt completely confident and safe when Bella went to school, and I was wrong,” she said.
Bella was transferred to the trauma center at Broward Regional Hospital, where she had surgery to repair two broken vertebrae, move a bone from the other side of her spine, and insert rods and screws for support.
Carina, a local small business owner, and Ruben, a sales manager at a Miami Toyota Dealership, don’t want any parent to have to deal with this kind of thing again.
They are now suing the Broward school district, claiming a lack of supervision led to the accident that injured their daughter.
Ruben said, considering everything the school has been through, and the fact that no supervisor on site could make any decisions regarding the safety of the children at school, he and his wife hope that in the future, there are going to be protocols in place to handle these situations.
Cathleen Brennan, a communications representative from Broward County Public Schools said her office was unable to comment on the incident due to potential, pending or ongoing litigation.
“My goal at the end of the day is that the 150 or so band kids are entitled to the same safety measures as the other athletes,” said Carina.
Currently wearing a back brace, and attending occupational and physical therapy, Bella will undergo a second surgery soon.
“We don’t know what her future looks like six weeks from now or six years from now,” said Ruben, “She has a long road ahead.”
- Jill Fox is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer. She has worked in public relations and television for over 20 years. Fox lives in Parkland with her husband and their two children.