Family's Nightmare: Daughter's Accident Photos Go Viral
Family traumatized when thousands of sites posted accident photos of teen.
July 1, 2008— -- With just a few mouse clicks, you can find pictures that are too graphic to show in the mainstream media -- images of horrible accidents, mutilations and death.
There's an Internet subculture devoted to death and gore with thousands of images, each bloodier than the next. For one family, an image that circulated on these types of Web sites added injury to already profound pain.
Nikki Catsouras was an 18-year-old college freshman living in California with her parents and two sisters. She loved to shoot videos on her camera, and ironically, it was a camera that would memorialize Nikki's life and death as a gruesome and macabre joke on the Internet.
It all started with a typical fight between parents and teenager when Nikki got caught sneaking a cigarette in the house.
"Nikki broke a house rule and we had a disagreement, and I took her car keys away," said Christos Catsouras, Nikki's father. Catsouras had no idea the next day would be the last time he'd ever see the daughter he called "Angel."
"As I was walking out the door, I kind of winked and blew her a kiss, and she winked back and flipped me a peace sign," he recalled. "I said, 'Bye, see you at two-thirty, love you. She said, 'Love you, bye.'"
Then, her family says, Nikki did something out of character. She took the keys to her father's Porsche 911 Carrera, a car that goes zero to 60 miles an hour in less than five seconds. She had never driven the Porsche before.
According to state highway patrol reports, at approximately 1:45 p.m. last Halloween, Nikki Catsouras was traveling 100 mph on State Route 241, near Lake Forest, Calif., when she clipped another car and lost control, going across lanes over the median and slamming into a concrete tollbooth. She was killed instantly.
"Her head was more or less cut in two and sort of cleaved and then smashed. It's nothing that anyone should ever have to see," said Michael Fertik, the founder of ReputationDefender, a company that helps clients such as the Catsouras family remove items from the Internet. The Catsouras family was told they should never see the photos from the scene of the horrendous accident.
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