‘She’ll always live in our hearts,’ London Harrell’s immediate family speaks of change after her death
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - For the first time since her death, we are hearing from the family of the 21-year-old Columbia native London Harrell, after she was killed in a hit-and-run incident in Florida.
While her family says they are hurting, they say this tragedy has given them purpose.
The 21-year-old was walking near the UCF campus last week when she was hit by a driver who investigators say was impaired.
The driver, Yousuf Hasan, accused of hitting Harrell is out of jail. Hasan is accused of being under the influence when he hit London, minutes after being involved in another hit-and-run. He is facing several charges including manslaughter.
London’s stepfather Dennis Brantley says he wishes that Florida's bond laws would have prevented Hasan from being out on the street.
As London’s family waits for the judicial process to continue, they want the community to focus on her and are taking positive steps to help create change in her memory.
We spoke with London’s father, Mike Harrell, mother Paula Cobb, stepfather Dennis Brantley and stepmother Denise Pendarvis Harrell. They told us about their journey from being in the hospital to where they are now.
"We'll always, always have London, she'll always live in our hearts," Denise Pendarvis Harrell said.
London’s father spoke about those difficult days between the crash and London's death.
"Went straight to Orlando to get to the hospital, Orlando Regional and we got there about 8:30 in the morning. He (London’s brother) didn't go up, but I did to see her. I missed the first round of doctors that day in the morning and then I got to talk to them and really hear the prognosis, diagnosis," Mike Harrell said.
London's mother and stepfather also walked us through the moments in the hospital before they knew her fate.
"She was going to have a rough road to recovery, but still had hope that their initial diagnosis was wrong," Cobb said.
London died almost a week after she was hit. London's family says in life, London was a giver, whether to a charitable cause or through friendships. Paula Cobb says she did a lot of work through UCF and Children’s Miracle Network.
"Wherever she lived, she was going to be involved with that community whether it was northeast Columbia, or Orlando, she found a way to get involved one way, or another to help people,” Mike Harrell said.
Moving forward, her family says they want to continue her purpose in a project called the ‘Live Like London Foundation.’
"What we will do with the foundation is hopefully be able to connect people that are in need with help for their family, or for them so they can actually have a unique experience. I don't really know exactly what that means, we're certainly not trying to replace all the wonderful things that are out there, but if it means we can pay for hotel rooms for families that are out of town and their kids are in the hospital, that makes that experience overall better," Cobb said.
Cobb and Brantley say they hope for a full launch of the foundation in July.
London's mom and stepfather say they also want to use their experience to try to advocate in the medical field and help make it easier to get second opinions.
“I wanted other neurologists to have the opportunity to look at London’s scans and see if anyone, anyone in the world had any sort of different opinion of where and what the future for her would be like and if she was to survive and the ability to do that was not easy,” Cobb said.
When it comes to victim advocacy, London's stepfather says they want to find ways to improve communication between advocates and victims.
“There have been extensive advances in the victim advocacy programs in the state of Florida, in the state of South Carolina, that offers an opportunity for the families to gain information that they may not be able to gain readily otherwise, a single point of contact, but that is still a very big challenge for us in particular, trying to coordinate communication, simply communication with our family, with law enforcement, with the medical community, with our friends,” Brantley said.
All members of her family wanted to praise the community, whether in Florida, or South Carolina. They add the community has taken them in and they have appreciated their generosity.
London’s family asks for continued prayers and support through this difficult time.
We asked London’s family if they think she would be proud of all the positive steps they are taking.
"Yeah. She's proud of all four of us. Mike, Denise, Dennis and I and of course Maddux (London’s brother), we were her core, and she's very, very proud," Cobb said.
London’s family invites the public to a memorial service on Sunday. It will be held at 2 p.m. at the Spring Valley High School Gymnasium. A visitation will follow from 3-5pm at the Woodlands Golf & Country Club in Columbia.
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