Vanessa Bryant, the widow of NBA legend Kobe has revealed internet trolls are threatening to release photos of her late husband and daughter’s remains taken moments after they died in a helicopter crash.
On January 26, 2020, a helicopter carrying former pro basketball player Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others crashes in Calabasas,
Bryant claimed that the knowledge that photos showing the death of her daughter and husband were “out there” caused her “constant fear and anxiety”. She said that she had trouble sleeping and was depressed as a result. She says she has been contacted by internet creeps telling her they’ll share the gruesome photos online, although those threats have yet to come to fruition.
She was forced to detail her anxiety in a declaration filed with LA County with whom she has an ongoing lawsuit, after suing the city’s sheriff’s department for invasion of privacy after the photos were leaked in the wake of the January 2020 smash which also killed the Bryants’ 13 year-old daughter Gianna.
Bryant says she has seen one photo of her husband’s body, and that it sickens her to see ‘Kobe Bryant body’ pop up as a suggested search on Google when she types her late husband’s name into the search bar. Six of the couple’s family friends and the chopper pilot also died in the smash.
In documents seen by TMZ, Bryant details how she asked Sheriff Alex Villanueva on the day of the crash, January 26, 2020, to secure the crash site and not allow anyone to take photographs after learning there were no survivors.
She told the Sheriff: ‘If you can’t bring my husband and baby back, please make sure no one takes photographs of them.’
But just one month later, she learned Sheriff’s deputies and firefighters were indeed passing around photos that had been taken of Kobe and Gianna’s remains.
Vanessa said finding out the information sent her into a cycle of distress, worrying they would be leaked online.
She believes around 20 people managed to obtain copies of the pictures despite being assured by the county that they had been deleted.
Vanessa reveals in the documents that she has seen one photo showing the remains of her late husband.
‘Since viewing the photo, I’ve been tormented with thoughts of who took it and whether it depicts my husband. It infuriates me that the people I trusted to protect the dignity of my husband and daughter abused their positions to obtain souvenirs of their deaths, as though possessing pictures of their remains somehow makes them special. I imagine Kobe watching over what occurred at that crash scene, and I am overcome by anger and emotion,’ Vanessa writes.
‘I feel sick at the thought that deputies and firefighters have gawked at photos of my husband’s and child’s bodies without any reason. I also feel extreme sadness and anger knowing that photos of my husband’s and daughter’s bodies were laughed about while shown at a bar and awards banquet,’ she continued.
Vanessa notes that she is constantly worried about the pictures surfacing somehow online with trolls even threatening her and promising to release them. She is particularly worried that her children may be the ones to uncover them at some point in the future.
‘For the rest of my life, one of two things will happen: either close-up photos of my husband’s and daughter’s bodies will go viral online, or I will continue to live in fear of that happening.’
Bryant is suing the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for invasion of privacy, alleging that first responders improperly shared the photos.
She revealed in a sworn statement in October that she first learned of the crash, which occurred around 9.45am, when her assistant knocked on the door about 11.30am and told her there had been an accident.
She said she tried in vain to reach her husband, who was on the helicopter with Gianna and other youth basketball players and coaches as she started getting notifications on her phone, sharing condolences for Kobe’s death.
It was hours later before Vanessa officially learned from the sheriff that Kobe, 41, and Gianna, 13, had perished.
Bryant also claimed in her deposition that LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva vowed to keep the crash scene private moments after informing her that Kobe and Gianna were dead.
According to her, first responders, including firefighters and sheriff’s deputies, shared photographs of Kobe Bryant’s body with a bartender passing around ‘gratuitous photos of the dead children, parents and coaches.’
One person, showed a photo on his phone to a bartender at Baja California Bar and Grill, who then loudly proclaimed to patrons and staff that he’d just seen an image of Kobe Bryant’s body.
Bryant contends in the suit that she has experienced ‘severe emotional distress’ from the display of the photos, that has compounded the trauma of losing her husband and daughter.
Los Angeles County contends that, while the conduct was inappropriate, showing a photo to one member of the public does not constitute invasion of privacy.
The county says that the photos were not shared with the media or posted on the internet, and thus were ‘not publicly disseminated.’