ORLANDO, Fla. (FOX 35 ORLANDO) - A Florida family is demanding changes from Uber after their 12-year-old girl took an Uber before jumping to her death in downtown Orlando in January.
According to a press release by NeJame Law, a 12-year-old girl named Benita downloaded the Uber app on her mother's phone and requested a pickup at a vacant lot inside a gated Lake Nona community. She was picked up before sunrise and taken to downtown Orlando behind Orlando City Hall. Benita then reportedly proceeded to the upper level of a parking garage and jumped to her death.
Ron Diamond and Lisha Chen, the parents of Benita, have never allowed their daughter to travel alone, NeJame Law said.
Uber policy forbids minors from using its app or traveling without an adult, but NeJame Law said that "zero effort is made to enforce the age restriction, much less assist drivers in doing so." They also said that Uber also does not penalize drivers for transporting unaccompanied minors lacking parental authorization. It is recommended that drivers should deny picking up minors who are alone.
A press conference was held on Thursday afternoon with Benita's family. Her mother, Lisha Chen, spoke at the press conference and said that "I learned that the Uber driver did not speak a word of English. Not one word at all."
Father Ron Diamond also spoke at the press conference and said that "we had no clue that my daughter had ordered an Uber. We had no clue that she got into an Uber and drove to downtown. And we had a right to know where our daughter went. I think, without a doubt, that if Uber followed their policy, our daughter would still be here."
Diamond also said that in his daughter's last letter, she wrote that "I was surprised at how easily I got into the Uber... I guess I was expecting more of a hassle."
Uber spoke to Fox 35 and said that this incident was not reported to them in the last six months, so they are investigating and will take appropriate action. They also said that if they receive a report of an underage rider, Uber will invesigate and the driver or account holder risks losing access to the app.
Drivers are reportedly asked to report situations where a rider is underage to Uber for further review and investigation. Their Community Guidelines state that account holders must be over 18.
Benita was described as a "bubbly, gifted student and a piano prodigy" by NeJame Law. Her mother described her as "a happy child and no one ever worried about her."