Vanessa Bryant: 'RIP Kobe' Was First I Heard of His Death

NBA star's widow revealed detail last month in deposition
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 25, 2021 1:35 AM CDT
Vanessa Bryant: 'RIP Kobe' Was First I Heard of His Death
In this Feb. 24, 2020, file photo, Vanessa Bryant speaks during a celebration of life for her husband, Kobe Bryant, and daughter Gianna in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Vanessa Bryant heard from a family assistant on the morning of Jan. 26, 2020, that the helicopter her husband and daughter had taken, heading to 13-year-old Gianna's basketball games, had crashed. But the assistant thought five people had survived, and Vanessa assumed Kobe and Gianna would be among the survivors. Then she started getting notifications on her phone reading "RIP Kobe." That's how she found out NBA legend Kobe Bryant, her husband of nearly two decades, and her daughter were dead. It was hours before she got official word of their deaths, along with the other seven people who had been in the helicopter, she revealed in an October deposition she gave as part of a lawsuit between her and Los Angeles County, the transcript of which has just become public.

Bryant said in the deposition that she tried to get to the crash site via helicopter, but was turned away at the airport because of unsafe weather conditions, the New York Times reports. When she finally arrived after being driven there, the Los Angeles County sheriff walked in to the station with a publicist, whom Bryant asked to leave. After the sheriff confirmed the deaths of her husband and daughter and asked if he could do anything for her, Bryant says she replied, "'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.'" He left, then returned to assure her he had done so.

Bryant is suing over first responders who allegedly took photos of human remains at the crash site and shared them; asked during the deposition whether she is seeking monetary damages, she said that's up to the jury, but that she wants those who took pictures held accountable. A lawyer for the county asked her, multiple times, to look at images (including, for example, a photo of Kobe's face superimposed onto a photo of a burnt corpse, USA Today reports) and messages that had been sent to her on social media as a means of pointing out others had caused her emotional distress, but she held her hand in front of her camera and monitor to avoid looking at them (the hearing was held via Zoom). The county argues that the images were not given to the media or posted online, so were therefore not publicly disseminated, E! reports.

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Three other contentious issues in the case involve whether the sheriff and the LA fire chief should sit for depositions, whether the county can conduct independent medical examinations of all the plaintiffs in the case, and how much information is being asked of witnesses. The exams include psychiatric evaluations, which Bryant's lawyers say are cruel, but the county says are necessary in order to evaluate the extent of the emotional distress that was suffered. Ten of the plaintiffs, including all of the young children, exited the case after the medical exams were requested; two families settled with the county for undisclosed terms, while a third is continuing to sue but without the family's surviving children as plaintiffs. As for the witnesses, Bryant's team says they're being subpoenaed for far too much—including documents from a decade prior to the crash. (More Vanessa Bryant stories.)

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