Coach drives team in U-Haul cargo van across state line, parents outraged
BATON ROUGE - Some parents contacted 2 On Your Side when they say their children and the rest of their traveling basketball team was driven to Mississippi in the back of a U-Haul cargo van.
Melinda Jones and Antoine Brown say their children were dropped off at the Cortana Walmart around 8 a.m. Saturday where they were to wait for a ride to their out-of-state basketball game. Melinda Jones says the team had raised money for the trip to Mississippi and was expecting her son and the rest of the players to take a 15-passenger van on the journey. She says they didn't wait around for them to leave, but discovered later the van that showed up wasn't what they were expecting.
"They took a U-Haul," she said. "No seatbelt, no air. Every time they hit a hump everybody went flying this way, everybody was flying all over the U-Haul."
Melinda says eight 15-year-olds rode in the back of the cargo van that had no seats or seatbelts. It was about a three hour drive to their destination.
Up until this past weekend the parents say everything was going great and their children were enjoying playing on the traveling basketball team, LA Ferrari. They say their coach, Jessie Jones, drove them to Biloxi, Mississippi.
Melinda says she first heard about the basketball team when her son came home from school with a flier. Parents say they paid a $40 entry fee for the basketball program, $25 for a jersey, $10 for team shirts, and raised money for their away games. The money was intended to be used for transportation, a hotel room (two to a room), and food.
"The night before the trip he text all the parents and said if the kids don't have an extra $25 they wouldn't be able to go, that was for the food and the gas," Melinda explained.
But that's not what happened. Melinda says the children weren't served food the whole weekend, all eight of them slept in one hotel room, and rode in the back of a U-Haul cargo van.
Tuesday morning, 2 On Your Side called coach Jessie Jones. He told WBRZ he was supposed to get a van but "at the last minute the price went up and the parents couldn't get the money." He mentioned a lack of communication between him and the parents, but confirms he drove them to Mississippi in the back of a U-Haul cargo van. Coach Jones said he didn't see a problem with the form of transportation because he's taken a trip in the back of a cargo van himself. When 2 On Your Side started asking more questions, the line disconnected.
Melinda and Antoine are thankful nothing happened to the children riding in the van, but they want answers and their money back since it wasn't spent on their children.
Parents say when they asked their children why they got in the U-Haul cargo van in the first place, they said it's because they wanted to play basketball.
A report has been filed with Baton Rouge Police.
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