Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna, along with nine other passengers including the basketball legend, Kobe Bryant, were tragically killed in the helicopter crash of 2020. The top coroner of Los Angeles County, in graphic detail, testified on Thursday about the state of Kobe Bryant’s body following the crash.
On the second day of the trial between Vanessa Bryant and defendants from the county, a lawsuit was filed against Los Angeles County. The allegations were made by captains from the Los Angeles County Fire Department and deputies from the LA sheriff’s office, claiming that photos of the helicopter crash site in January 2020 were shared and taken. Emily Tauscher, the head of investigations at the LA County coroner’s office, gave testimony on this matter.
Tauscher described a more spontaneous approach to the photography site in the sheriff department’s coroner’s office, where they could have allowed the sharing and taking of photos. She also discussed the photographic practices of the coroner’s office, providing a detailed insight into the gruesome picture painted by the captured photos of the grisly crash scene.
The pilot, Ara Zobayan, and all nine individuals on board, including Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, and baseball coach John Altobelli and his family, tragically perished in the helicopter accident as they were en route to a girls basketball game near Malibu, California, on January 26, 2020.
In September 2020, Vanessa Bryant sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the county’s fire department, and the whole department as a whole, claiming that the officers at the crash site of the January 2020 incident mishandled the reports and response.
The county will have a nine-day consolidated trial against the Bryant’s, and they are also suing the county workers for the same claims. In the crash, Chris Chester’s wife, Sarah, and daughter, Payton, died.
Chester and Bryant both left the courtroom ahead of her testimony. Tauscher, a key witness for Chester and Bryant, delivered exceptionally detailed and graphic testimony about the crash-post condition of each victim’s body, providing jurors with a mental image of what the photos on the site would show.
Tauscher testified that the crash resulted in human remains being scattered over a distance of 500 yards, leading to an impact zone that was larger than two football fields. According to her, a magnesium fire was also burning as a result of the crash. She stated that most of the victims had to undergo scientific identification due to the severity of their injuries. Tauscher testified that Kobe Bryant was partially identified based on his skin tone and tattoos on his arm.
Due to the profound and indeterminate character of their situation, she informed the court that the coroner’s office did not extend an invitation to the families to recognize their beloved ones following the accident.
She expressed, “The appearance of a person in death is vastly distinct from how they appear in life.” “It remains with them eternally, crafting an impression that would deeply affect anyone witnessing it.”
According to Tauscher’s testimony, neither the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department nor the Los Angeles County Fire Department ever made a request for photographs of the remains. The coroner’s office captured approximately 1,250 images of the crash site, with approximately 300 of them specifically focusing on human remains.
David Katz, the leader of LASD Malibu Search and Rescue, testified that Doug Johnson, an LASD deputy, had taken hundreds of photos by himself using his cellphone.
Vanessa Bryant is filing a lawsuit against the county seeking punitive damages. She is suing the county for invasion of privacy, emotional distress, and negligence claims. The allegations include the dissemination and capture of photos that the LA County agency may have engaged in, which relate to her constitutional right and also involve her deceased loved ones’ images. These allegations are at the federal level.