Kobe Bryant widow first heard of basketball star’s death via phone alerts

The widow of the basketball superstar Kobe Bryant has testified that she learned about the death of her husband and daughter in a helicopter crash when she saw “RIP Kobe” notifications on her phone.

Bryant, his daughter Gianna, 13, and seven others were killed in January 2020 when the helicopter they were in on their way to a basketball tournament, crashed in the hills west of Los Angeles in foggy weather.

Vanessa Bryant said she pleaded with the Los Angeles county sheriff to make sure no one took photographs from the site of the 2020 helicopter crash that killed the basketball star, and that he reassured her that the area had been secured, court documents say.

Bryant is suing the Los Angeles county sheriff’s department for invasion of privacy and emotional distress that she said was caused by emergency medical workers who took and shared photos of the human remains at the helicopter crash site.

In a deposition, Bryant said a family assistant had first told her about the crash, but they had said that five people survived. She said she assumed her husband was among them and that they would be helping the others.

“I was holding on to my phone, because obviously I was trying to call my husband back, and all these notifications started popping up on my phone, saying: ‘RIP Kobe. RIP Kobe. RIP Kobe,’” Bryant said, according to a transcript of the deposition. “My life will never be the same without my husband and daughter.”

After Sheriff Alex Villanueva confirmed her husband and daughter were killed, he asked Bryant if he could do anything for her, according to the deposition.

“And I said: ‘If you can’t bring my husband and baby back, please make sure that no one takes photographs of them. Please secure the area.’ And he said: ‘I will.’ And I said: ‘No, I need you to get on the phone right now and I need you to make sure you secure the area.’”

Villanueva, she said, excused himself momentarily and reassured her the area had been secured when he came back.

The lawsuit contends that first responders, including firefighters and sheriff’s deputies, shared photographs of Kobe Bryant’s body with a bartender and passed around “gratuitous photos of the dead children, parents and coaches”.

Federal safety officials blamed pilot error for the helicopter crash.

Los Angeles county is seeking to compel psychiatric evaluations for Bryant and others to determine if they truly suffered emotional distress. Bryant’s lawyers argue in court filings that the examinations are “cruel” while the county contends they are “a routine part of the discovery process”.