Young Woman's Tragic Crash Yields Viral Death Video: The Story of Dayna Kempson


One site with Catsouras' pictures generated 719,264 views, according to Fertik. When the photos were first posted, trolls bombarded the Catsouras family with the images through emails and fake MySpace and YouTube pages complete with sadistic commentary.

"The Internet does not discriminate," Fertik said. "It does not care if you have a decent family, it does not care how you live your life. The random guy or gal sitting in his or her basement 1,000 miles away can visit devastating harm on you and your family in the blink of an eye without any recourse, without any remorse and without your ever being able to find out who they are."

There are a few ways people like the Kempsons can fight back against a video or pictures they want removed from the Web, Fertik said.

The first step is to reach out to the site hosting the content to ask that it be removed. But beware, Fertik said: It's only a step you should take if you believe that the site's administrators will comply.

Sometimes, "the content gets hosted on a site that's really run by nasty people who are snarky and they take it upon themselves not only to deny the removal of content but to celebrate the fact that you're trying to get it removed," Fertik said. "So you actually may exacerbate the problem."

In those instances, Fertik said, another course of action is populating Google search results for the person depicted in the content. By flooding the Internet with positive material, videos, websites and tributes, it may bury the negative material past the first page of the Google results.

For the average person, doing something like that may be difficult. But Fertik's and other companies do provide such services. Fertik said his company's site also has free tools people can use.

The most concrete way to fight back, Fertik said, is for the Kempsons and others to try and obtain copyright to the material they want off the Web. By law, that will force the sites who are hosting it to remove it.

"If you can somehow get the copyright of that video, then, actually, the law backs you up," he said. "In that case, the person who hosts the content, the video, if they receive a claim of copyright from you, under law they are obligated to remove it. Otherwise, they become liable."

The Kempsons are concerned not just for their daughter's legacy but for her sons' well-being. They worry about what will happen when the two boys are old enough to start using computers themselves. Could they find videos of their mother?

Children's online safety expert Mary Kay Hoal said that the Kempsons can be proactive about protecting their grandsons by signing up for email alerts to notify them whenever the video resurfaces somewhere.

On any device the boys use to access the Web, Hoal said, the Kempsons should set filters through tools like Google Safe Search and YouTube Safe View mode that limit what sites and content the children have access to.

"Those are easy steps that the grandparents can take that help mitigate the chances of the children seeing the video," Hoal said.

The Kempsons hope they can prevent the creation of other exploitative accident videos by lobbying for a law that would prohibit first responders from using their personal devices to take unofficial pictures or video at an accident scene.

It would be "something either locally, state, or federally, to try and get something passed where these gentlemen follow the rules," Jeff Kempson said. "They respect the dead.They respect the injured. And they do their job accordingly. That's what their paid to do. That's what we expect them to do." (Learn more at the Justice for Dayna Kempson Facebook page.)

The Kempsons have met with Georgia Congressman Lynn Westmoreland. Westmoreland issued a statement to "20/20" noting that an existing Georgia law, the Meredith Emerson Memorial Privacy Act, addresses the use of gruesome crime scene photos but added that the law should be strengthened. He said he intends "to continue to work with state and local officials to ensure that something like this does not happen to another family."

Two months after the crash, when the video was fully surfaced, an investigation by Spalding County officials found that Spalding County Firefighter Terrence Reid, a nine-year fire department veteran, was responsible for the video. He told investigators he had taken it because he "had never seen an event like that before."

Reid was fired from the Spalding County Fire Department. The investigation found seven other firefighters at fault in some capacity for what happened, including Reid's commander on the scene that night, Capt. Lee Slaughter.

Slaughter, as acting scene commander, was chastised in the investigators' report for not properly supervising the scene and for being unaware Reid was taking the video.

Slaughter agreed to speak to "20/20" to apologize to the Kempsons on behalf of the fire department. During the investigation, he said, he was prohibited from contacting the couple.

"We never got an opportunity to tell the family," he said, "that we're very sorry that this happened and we did not, or do not condone what his young man did." (Watch Slaughter's apology here.)

The Kempsons said that's the first official apology they've received. They're still waiting for one from Terrence Reid.

"20/20" correspondent Jim Avila and a crew tracked Reid down after he and his lawyer declined "20/20's" request for an interview.

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