The family of a 12-year-old Florida girl who died by suicide after taking an Uber alone is demanding the ride-hailing company make changes to enforce its policy of not allowing minors to use the service without an adult.
On the morning of Jan. 10 while her parents were sleeping, Benita Diamond downloaded the Uber app on her mother’s phone and requested a ride to a downtown Orlando parking garage, where she killed herself.
“I believe that if the driver had questioned or followed the rules or denied a ride, my daughter would be here today,” the girl’s mother, Lisha Chen, said during a press conference Thursday.
Uber requires all account holders to be at least 18 years old and prohibits children from riding without an adult. Drivers are instructed to decline ride requests if they suspect the person requesting the ride is underage and may request ID to confirm, according to the company.
“If a rider is underage, please do not start the trip or allow them to ride,” Uber’s website states.
But, according to her family, the 12-year-old was able to create an account without her parents knowledge on Jan. 8, using just a name, an email address, and a gift card she received for Christmas. Two days later, an Uber driver picked up the 4-foot-11-inch seventh-grader and drove her to the City Commons Parking Garage.
“At no point was she asked her name, was she asked her age — no questions were asked why a little girl under 5 feet tall dragging a polka-dot backpack was out in the wee hours of the morning by herself,” the family’s attorney, Laura Douglas, said.
An Uber spokesperson said in an email to BuzzFeed News that the incident had not been reported to the company over the last six months and that it was now investigating and planned to “take appropriate action.”
The spokesperson said that when the company receives a report of an underage rider it investigates to determine whether the driver or account holder should lose access to the app.
“Drivers are asked to report situations where a rider is underage to Uber for further review/investigation by our 24/7 customer support team,” the spokesperson said.
Benita’s parents described their daughter as a happy child who excelled in school and at playing the piano and performing jujitsu. They said she did not have a history of behavioral issues or mental illness.
“Everybody was shocked because nobody suspected she had any problems,” Chen said, adding that they still don’t know why she killed herself.
Ronald Diamond, the girl’s father, said their daughter wrote in a suicide note that she thought she would have more difficulty getting an Uber and that she was “basically … past the point of no return now.”
“I think if Uber had followed their policy, without a doubt our daughter would still be here. That would have been the one red flag that we would have caught,” Diamond said. “Uber took my daughter past the point of no return.”
The family is considering filing a lawsuit against the company in the hopes that Uber will better enforce its policies and make changes to prevent minors from creating accounts.
“I want other families not to go through this,” the girl’s grandfather Richard Diamond said. “It’s not just about suicide. It’s about all the other things that horrific happen to young kids when they’re on their own.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org. You can also text TALK to 741741 for free, anonymous 24/7 crisis support in the US from the Crisis Text Line.