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Vanessa Bryant reaches $28.85M settlement with L.A. County over helicopter crash photos

Bryant, the widow of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, sued Los Angeles County and others over photos taken of the scene of the deadly helicopter crash.
/ Source: NBC News

Vanessa Bryant, the widow of late NBA legend Kobe Bryant, has reached an almost $30 million settlement with Los Angeles County over photos taken of the scene of the deadly 2020 helicopter crash, an attorney for the county said on Feb. 28.

The settlement is for $28.85 million and resolves all claims involving the county, Mira Hashmall, lead trial counsel for Los Angeles County in the case, said in a statement.

The settlement brings to an end litigation with the county over grim photos first responders took of the site of the Jan. 26, 2020, crash, which were later leaked.

Los Angeles Lakers icon Kobe Bryant, 41; his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant; and seven other people died in the crash in Calabasas, near the Southern California coast, northwest of Los Angeles.

The almost $30 million settlement includes the $15 million awarded to Vanessa Bryant by a jury in August, Hashmall said.

The settlement also resolves all outstanding claims in state court and any future claims by the Bryant children, she said. The couple had three other children.

“We hope Ms. Bryant and her children continue to heal from their loss,” Hashmall said. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the settlement, she said.

Attorneys for Bryant did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday evening.

Evidence at trial showed that a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy showed a photo of Kobe Bryant’s body to a bartender, which prompted an official complaint by another bar patron.

Evidence also showed that firefighters passed around photos with one another at an awards banquet and that others shared them with their spouses.

Kobe Bryant is beloved in Los Angeles. He played his entire 20-year career with the Lakers, and retired in 2016.

Chris Chester, whose wife, Sarah, and daughter, Payton, 13, were killed in the crash, also sued over the photos and the handling of them. The jury in August also awarded him $15 million.

The National Transportation Safety Board said in February 2021 that the helicopter pilot’s poor decisions and “spatial disorientation” led to the crash. The pilot, who also died, continued to fly under visual flight rules into instrument meteorological conditions.

The pilot, Ara Zobayan, said he was climbing to get above clouds, according to the NTSB. Instead, the aircraft descended rapidly in a left turn to the ground and crashed.

The pilot should have avoided the weather, and diverted, returned to base or landed it, NTSB member Michael Graham said at the time.

The crash also killed John Altobelli, 56; his wife, Keri Altobelli, 46; their daughter Alyssa Altobelli, 14; and Christina Mauser, 38. 

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