Kobe Bryant's widow fears fatal crash photos will spread

Vanessa Bryant says horror overcame grief after learning about pictures disseminated by first responders

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Kobe Bryant's widow told a court on Friday she was devastated when she learnt first responders had snapped graphic photographs of her dead husband and daughter in the wreckage of the helicopter crash that killed them.

A tearful Vanessa Bryant said she lives in fear of the pictures surfacing on the internet and “constantly being spread”.

“It's like Covid. Once it's spread, you can't get it back,” she said.

The late US basketball player Kobe Bryant and wife Vanessa Bryant attend the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party following the 91st Academy Awards. AFP

US basketball star Kobe Bryant and his teenage daughter were among nine people who died when their helicopter crashed into a hillside near Los Angeles, California, in 2020.

Ms Bryant claims she has suffered emotional distress because personnel from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and firefighters took pictures of the scene which they later shared, including at a bar, with friends and other first responders.

She is suing Los Angeles County for unspecified millions of dollars in damages, in a case that has been joined to that of Chris Chester, whose wife and daughter also perished in the crash.

The suits allege negligence and invasion of privacy.

“I was blindsided again, devastated, hurt. I trusted them. I trusted them not to do these things,” Ms Bryant said.

Lawyers say the grisly mobile phone pictures were snapped as “souvenirs” by first responders who had no business taking photos.

Legal representatives for Los Angeles County do not dispute that the photos were taken, but insist they have never been made public and have now been deleted.

Mr Chester told the courtroom in Los Angeles of his disbelief when he learnt of the pictures a month after the tragedy — including that they had been flaunted at a bar and at an awards ceremony.

“I had largely insulated my family from the details” of the crash, he said.

“Now, I thought there would be pictures of the remains on the internet,” he said and added he had instantly warned his sons: “Please don't start googling for them.”

“I'm fearful every day,” he told the jury. “There's been a lot of things that people thought didn't exist that have turned up on the internet.”

Mira Hashmall, representing the county in the civil litigation, said earlier that the case, which began on Monday, hinged on this issue of public dissemination.

“From the time of the crash to now, the county has worked tirelessly to prevent its crash site photos from getting into the public domain,” she said.

“Over two and a half years later, no county photos have appeared in the media, none can be found online and the plaintiffs admit they've never seen them.”

Relatives of other victims were last year granted $2.5 million in compensation over the photo-taking.

An investigation into the crash found the pilot had probably become disorientated after flying the Sikorsky S-76 into fog.

Bryant is widely recognised as one of the greatest basketball players ever, a figure who became the face of his sport during a glittering two decades with the Los Angeles Lakers.

He was a five-time NBA champion in a career that began in 1996 straight out of high school and lasted until his retirement in 2016.

News agencies contributed to this report

Updated: August 19, 2022, 10:43 PM