Vanessa Bryant takes stand in trial over photos from deadly helicopter crash

Bryant was the final plaintiffs' witness in the ongoing trial.

August 19, 2022, 4:49 PM

An emotional Vanessa Bryant took the stand Friday in her invasion of privacy trial over photos taken at the scene of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, basketball star Kobe Bryant, and their 13-year-old daughter.

Bryant filed a lawsuit several months after the 2020 crash against Los Angeles County, alleging that first responders took graphic photos of human remains at the scene as "souvenirs" and shared them with others. She is claiming she suffered emotional distress and is suing for an undisclosed amount of damages for negligence and invasion of privacy.

Bryant, the final plaintiffs' witness, was overcome with emotion in the Los Angeles federal courtroom on Friday as she shared her fear and anxiety over the photos.

"I never had a panic attack before this," she told the jury.

PHOTO: Vanessa Bryant arrives at a federal courthouse in Los Angeles, Aug. 19, 2022.
Vanessa Bryant arrives at a federal courthouse in Los Angeles, Aug. 19, 2022.
KABC

Bryant said she learned from a Los Angeles Times report that deputies had taken photos of the crash site. She said she lives in fear every day that they could be leaked and wants "justice for my husband and my daughter."

Kobe Bryant and their daughter, Gianna, were headed to a basketball game at his Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks along with others connected to the basketball program on Jan. 26, 2020, when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed in Calabasas. All nine people on board, including the pilot, were killed.

Orange County financial adviser Chris Chester is also suing the county over photos taken of his wife and daughter, who were killed in the same crash. In July, U.S. District Judge John Walter decided to consolidate Bryant's and Chester's cases into one trial.

Chester took the witness stand on Thursday, telling the jury he was in "disbelief" after hearing reports that deputies and firefighters took and shared photos of his wife, Sarah, and their 13-year-old daughter, Payton.

"It was grief on top of grief," he said, calling for "justice and accountability."

PHOTO: Investigators work at the scene of the helicopter crash, where former NBA star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died, Jan. 28, 2020, in Calabasas, Calif.
Investigators work at the scene of the helicopter crash, where former NBA star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died, Jan. 28, 2020, in Calabasas, Calif.
David Mcnew/Getty Images, FILE

LA County maintains that first responders did not share any photos publicly from the scene of the crash. It also attests that an investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department confirmed that all of the photos were destroyed.

During the trial, which began Aug. 10, the defense has also maintained that the photos have not surfaced online since the tragedy. Multiple county fire and sheriff's personnel have also testified that they deleted whatever crash-site pictures they had on their cellphones.

Both Bryant's and Chester's lawsuits argue that the photos were shared before being deleted by first responders.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who ordered deputies to delete the photos, is also expected to testify on Friday as the first witness for the defense.

ABC News' Kyla Guilfoil contributed to this report.

Related Topics

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events