Losing your child is a pain no parent should ever have to endure.
Sadly, that fear became a reality for Vanessa Bryant on January 26, 2020, when she lost her husband, Kobe, and their daughter, Gianna, in a helicopter crash that remains a point of contention with Los Angeles County to this day.
In a deposition for the lawsuit that she filed against the county, the New York Times reports that Vanessa revealed exactly how she found out about the deaths of her husband and 13-year-old daughter. The morning started like just about every other Sunday, with her oldest daughter, Natalia, preoccupied with a college prep course while Vanessa tended to her two youngest children, Capri and Bianka. But things soon took a turn for the worst:
A family assistant knocked on the door around 11:30 a.m. that Sunday and told Bryant that her husband, Kobe Bryant, and their daughter Gianna had been in a helicopter accident, according to a transcript of a deposition of Bryant in a lawsuit between her and Los Angeles County.
The assistant said that five people had survived the crash that day, Jan. 26, 2020. Bryant said that she figured Kobe and Gianna would be among them and would be helping the other victims. But as she tried to call her husband, notifications began popping up on her phone: R.I.P. Kobe. R.I.P. Kobe.
“My life will never be the same without my husband and daughter,” Bryant said during her deposition.
It would take hours until Kobe and Gianna’s fates were confirmed, and when Vanessa attempted to visit the crash site prior to learning of their deaths, she was rebuffed due to weather conditions that made it unsafe for her to fly. Those same weather conditions reportedly played a contributing role in Kobe’s death. Vanessa is suing Los Angeles County, as well as some of its agencies and employees, for the emotional distress she has experienced as a result of emergency medical workers sharing photos of the human remains found at the site of the helicopter crash.
“‘If you can’t bring my husband and baby back, please make sure that no one takes photographs of them. Please secure the area,’” Bryant recalled telling Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva 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.’”
In response to Bryant’s accusations, the county has requested that she be subjected to a psychiatric evaluation, which Bryant’s team has cited as “cruel.”
Vanessa Bryant’s deposition comes at a crucial point in the case and amid an escalating battle between the lawyers over the scope of what Los Angeles County and the other defendants can request of Bryant, other plaintiffs and witnesses.
One of the most contentious issues, the subject of numerous court filings in recent days, is whether the county can conduct what are called independent medical examinations, which involve psychiatric evaluations, of each of the plaintiffs.
Bryant’s lawyers argue that the examinations are “cruel” and that the county is sending a message by requesting them. “When public servants violate the privacy and constitutional rights of the citizens they swore to protect and serve, the victims must run a gauntlet to seek justice,” Bryant’s lawyers argued in one of the filings.
But the county contends that the examinations are “a routine part of the discovery process,” according to filings. Bryant and the other plaintiffs are arguing that they suffered emotional distress because of the actions of county employees, and the county believes a medical professional should be allowed to examine the extent of that suffering.
To validate her claims, Bryant offered a list of witnesses who will be called upon to provide evidence of her emotional distress. That list included singers Ciara and Monica, as well as Kobe’s sister, Sharia Washington.
Bryant listed a number of witnesses to the emotional distress she said she has experienced, including Rob and Kristin Pelinka; the pop star Ciara Wilson; the television host and actress La La Anthony; the R&B singer Monica Arnold, known more popularly as Monica; Sharia Washington, Kobe Bryant’s sister; and Catherine Gasol, the wife of the former N.B.A. player Pau Gasol.
The judge has scheduled hearings in the coming days that will further determine the extent of documents that Bryant’s witnesses will be required to provide, but hopefully, this all gets settled sooner than later so that Vanessa and her family can close this chapter and continue on their journey of healing.