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Vanessa Bryant, the widow of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, has revealed in a sworn statement how she learned of the helicopter crash that killed him and their daughter, Gianna.
A charter helicopter carrying Kobe, Gianna, and other youth basketball players and coaches from Orange County to Thousand Oaks crashed in Calabasas due to fog.
Vanessa recounted the fateful events of January 26, 2020 in a deposition for her lawsuit against Los Angeles County, which she is suing over claims deputies shared gruesome crash-scene photos with each other and a bartender.
In her testimony, which was given via Zoom on Oct. 12, Bryan said around 11:30 a.m. PT on Jan. 26, 2020, a family assistant knocked on the door and told her “there was an accident and that there were five survivors.” The helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and Gianna, along with seven others, occurred at approximately 10 a.m. local time that day.
“I asked her if Gianna and Kobe were okay. And she said she wasn’t sure. She didn’t know,” per the deposition, a written copy of which was obtained by the New York Times.
Bryant said that she tried calling her husband and was unable to get through, so she then called her mother and asked her to come watch her youngest daughters, Bianca and Capris.
“As soon as I was on the phone with my mom, I was holding onto 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.’”
When Vanessa Bryant couldn’t get through to her husband, she said she left to pick up her daughter Natalia from an ACT prep class.
“I told her that Daddy and Gigi were in an accident,” Bryant said. “Not to worry I’m sure they’re fine because there’s five survivors. And I’m sure Daddy and Gigi are fine. I just felt, I knew that they would be helping people.”
During this time, Bryant said the family assistant was continuing to call the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, and Bryant was “getting frustrated because I didn’t know — no one was answering my question. No one was telling me whether or not they were okay.”
Bryant said that at this point, she went to the airport and tried to fly via helicopter to the crash site, but was told that weather conditions were too bad.
Bryant gave the testimony as part of her civil lawsuit against Los Angeles County that accuses sheriff’s and fire department employees of improperly sharing photos from the crash scene, including the dead bodies of Kobe Bryant and Gianna.
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.’
In her deposition, Vanessa said she pleaded with the Los Angeles County sheriff to make sure no one took photographs from the crash site, and he reassured that the area had been secured.
After Sheriff Alex Villanueva confirmed her husband, their teenage daughter, along with seven others, were killed, he asked Vanessa Bryant if he could do anything for her.
‘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,”‘ Vanessa Bryant said during the deposition.
‘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.
Vanessa Bryant is suing Los Angeles County for invasion of privacy and negligence in an attempt to “make an example of” the county employees “to the community.”