Vanessa Bryant found out that her husband, Kobe Bryant, and daughter, Gianna Bryant, died in a helicopter crash after getting "RIP Kobe" notifications on her phone. It took hours for her to get an official word about the accident from the authorities.
Vanessa said that no one from the sheriff's office in Malibu could tell her if her husband and daughter were "OK" in a testimony via a Zoom online court proceeding. Worse, Vanessa revealed that she was led to a little room that "looked like a closet" with a sofa and children's toys to wait for confirmation.
The NBA legend's widow recalled that she was also constantly moved from room to room at the police station before Sheriff Alex Villanueva arrived to break the unfortunate news that Kobe and Gianna's bodies were among the victims of the crash. Her first request from the sheriff was to make sure "no one takes photographs" of the site where her husband, daughter, and friends died.
Villanueva assured Vanessa that the area had been declared a "no-fly zone." Yet, Vanessa told the court that cellphone pictures had been taken by at least eight deputies as well as first responders and firefighters. While the police were able to secure the area from the paparazzi, Vanessa said she now lives in fear that she and her daughters will be shocked to find the photos online one day.
Vanessa Asked to Take Psychiatric Exam
In September 2020, Vanessa sued the Los Angeles police for invasion of privacy, negligence, and intentionally inflicting emotional distress upon her and her other daughters. The lawsuit suggested that she was left traumatized by the oversight and "feels ill," knowing that dozens of strangers who were supposed to help on the crash site were gawking at Kobe and Gianna's images.
"No one should ever have to endure this type of pain and fear of their family members," the widow said in her statement, adding that she cannot understand the lack of compassion from people who took the chance to photograph Kobe and Gianna's lifeless bodies "for their own sick amusement."
However, lawyers for the police said that Vanessa's emotional injuries weren't caused by the notifications of Kobe's death or the leaked photos, which were not disclosed online. They argued that Vanessa didn't see the accident site photos, but she should undergo an eight-hour psychiatric examination to fully evaluate the extent of the harm.
Vanessa's lawyers, however, said that the psychiatric examination to prove her emotional distress is irrelevant to the controversial way the police handled the accident. The lawyers noted that public officials have been entrusted to protect the dignity of the dead, yet they "failed to contain and secure the photos."
The court earmarked November 5 for another hearing before going into a trial in front of a jury by February 2022. Vanessa isn't the only one suing the police, as the rest of the victim's families, including a five-year-old sibling, have filed cases as well.
Kobe Bryant's Death
Kobe and Gianna, six other passengers, and one crew member died on January 26, 2020, when the helicopter that flew them to a girls' basketball tournament crashed on the hills of Los Angeles. Safety officials determined that it was a pilot error as helicopters were supposed to be grounded at that time because of poor visibility.
Vanessa and the other families also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the helicopter company. Island Express' lawyers said that Kobe was aware of the risks and "disavowed responsibility" should anything happen. The case is still ongoing.
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