Ronald Diamond reached up and clutched the pink stone hanging on a black cord around his neck as his daughter’s mother spoke at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Inside the stone, and a blue one the girl’s mother wore, were the ashes of their 12-year-old daughter, Benita “BB” Diamond.
“That’s all I have left of her, unfortunately," Lisha Chen said through tears.
In January, while her mother was asleep, 12-year-old Benita “BB” Diamond downloaded the Uber app and requested a trip to downtown Orlando, where she climbed to the top floor of the City Commons Parking Garage and jumped to her death, according to her family.
Benita’s family hired attorney Laura Douglas of NeJame Law to represent them. At Thursday’s press conference in Lake Nona, they demanded changes to the way the Uber and other ride-share companies enforce the usage of their services by minors. They have not filed a lawsuit but would not rule out doing so in the future.
“We all know bad things happen when kids get in cars with strangers without their parent’s consent,” Douglas said.
A spokesperson for Uber told WESH-Channel 2 that the incident had not been reported to the company. Uber “will take appropriate action” after investigating, the spokesperson told WESH.
Her family said Benita downloaded the Uber app to her mother’s phone Jan. 10 and logged into an account she created days earlier, using a gift card she got for Christmas. She called a ride to pick her up in an empty corner lot in her Lake Nona neighborhood, Douglas said.
The driver picked the 4-foot-11 girl up without questioning her age and drove her to downtown Orlando, dropping her off alone behind city hall, Douglas said.
Benita climbed to the top of the nine-story parking garage and jumped.
The family’s press conference was held in the lot where Benita was picked up. They lined up six cardboard boxes with blown-up photos of the girl spending time with friends and reading books.
Her family gathered behind the images to share their request.
“That day if the Uber driver had done his job right we would have seen the red flag, because I always knew where my daughter was,” Chen said.
Uber’s policy requires all account holders to be at least 18 years of age. The policy also states riders under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
The guideline for drivers on the Uber website reads: “As a driver-partner, you should decline the ride request if you believe the person requesting the ride is under 18. When picking up riders, if you feel they are underage, you may request they provide a driver’s license or ID card for confirmation. If a rider is underage, please do not start the trip or allow them to ride.”
Benita’s parents said they don’t want money, they want change that will help other families avoid similar tragedies.
“This will happen to another child or teenager if I don’t do anything right now, if I don’t make sure Uber, or Lyft or any share-ride company enforces their policy," Chen said. "They have a policy in place, but if they don’t enforce it, it’s useless.”
Her father said Benita left behind a letter, which she wrote on her phone and saved online using Google Docs. In it, she noted how easy it was to get picked up in the Uber and wrote as she was on her way downtown that she was “past the point of no return.”
“Uber took my daughter past the point of no return," Diamond said. “Nobody else did. We didn’t. Lisha didn’t. None of our family. Not you guys. Nobody. Uber took my daughter past the point of no return.”