On a day—8/24—when fans across the sports world and social media celebrated his legacy, a Los Angeles jury awarded Kobe Bryant’s widow $16 million for her family’s suffering over the distribution of pictures from the scene of the helicopter crash that killed him.
Under the verdict, Vanessa Bryant will split a total of $31 million that Los Angeles County was ordered to pay her and Chris Chester, who lost his wife, Sarah and daughter, Payton, in the January 26, 2020, wreck in southern California. Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, the Chesters and six others died when the chartered helicopter they were riding in to a youth basketball game collided with a mountain in heavy fog. Investigators later ruled that pilot error was mostly responsible for the crash.
Chester was awarded $15 million by the jury.
In the hours after the crash, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies who responded to the scene took a number of unauthorized photographs, including pictures of some of the victims that have been described as “grisly” and “gruesome”, some of which were then shared with other individuals in text threads and even at social gatherings. Vanessa Bryant and Chris Chester sued; the families of some other victims have separate legal action pending.
During the trial over the past two weeks, Vanessa Bryant gave emotional testimony about the trauma her family had suffered and her fear that one day the pictures could eventually surface online. Testimony also came from an official from the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office, who detailed that out of 1,250 pictures of the crash scene that became part of the official investigation, 300 featured images of the victims. At no time were L.A. County sheriffs asked to take pictures of the scene, the official said.
Most of the victims were visually unidentifiable because of the “extreme” condition of their bodies following the crash and massive fire that followed, said Emily Tauscher, the cororner’s office’s head of investigations.
August 24th is now unofficially celebrated as #KobeDay by fans, commemorating the late basketball star by matching the date with the numbers 8 and 24, which Kobe Bryant wore during his career with the Los Angeles Lakers. The previous day, August 23, would have been his 43rd birthday.