IT'S been one year since the tragic helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other people, but there's still one thing the star's family fears.
The ill-fated group, which included the NBA star – who is survived by his wife Vanessa Bryant, 38, and their three daughters Natalia Diamante, 18, Bianka Bella, 4, and Capri Kobe, 1 – died in the crash on January 26 last year.
Vanessa and Matthew Mauser, whose wife, Christina, died in the crash,later alleged that officers took photos of the crash site – and the remains of the victims – on their personal cellphones, without any investigative reasons for doing so.
They have each sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for invasion of privacy. The case is now part of an increasingly vast and complex web of litigation – including a wrongful death lawsuit – tied either directly or indirectly to the crash.
"One deputy even used his photos of the victims to try to impress a woman at a bar, bragging about how he had been at the crash site," Vanessa's lawsuit filed in Los Angeles alleges.
Vanessa lives in "fear" that graphic photos allegedly taken of the victims' remains by police on their personal cellphones, without any investigative reasons for doing so, at the crash site will be leaked to the public, according to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles.
"Ms. Bryant feels ill at the thought of strangers gawking at images of her deceased husband and child, and she lives in fear that she or her children will one day confront horrific images of their loved ones online," the documents said.
Kobe's wife sued the LAPD sheriff after the graphic photos were allegedly shared that showed the remains of the NBA star and eight others who died in the helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
"No fewer than 8 sheriff's deputies at the crash site, pulled out their personal cell phones and snapped photos of the dead children, parents and coaches," the lawsuit claims.
"The deputies took these photos for their own personal gratification."
The filing also alleges the photos were a topic of discussion within the sheriff's department, as deputies allowed their colleagues to see the photos that had no investigative purpose.
A deputy showed off the crash site pics to a woman he was trying to impress at a bar, the lawsuit claims.
That's when a bartender allegedly overheard the conversation and blew the whistle by reporting the information to police.
In Vanessa's lawsuit, she claims Sheriff Alex Villanueva attempted to cover up the misconduct by going to the department substation that responded to the crash and told deputies they'd get off scot-free if they deleted the photos.
Villanueva allegedly didn't tell the victims' families about the images – their loved ones only learned of the scandal in the media after the story broke, according to the lawsuit.
The suit claims the Sheriff never gave the family clear answers.
All lawsuits related to the tragedy remain in the early stages as the National Transportation Safety Board wraps up its investigation into the crash. The board has already released more than 1,800 pages of documents stemming from its probe and is slated to announce a probable cause for the crash at a meeting on February 9.
Kobe and his 13-year-old daughter were buried two weeks after they tragically died in a helicopter crash alongside seven others. The group was headed to Kobe's Mamba Sports Academy training facility when the tragedy occurred.
The other people killed in the crash were college baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and their daughter Alyssa, Christina Mauser, a coach at Mamba Sports Academy, passengers Sarah and Payton Chester and pilot Zobayan.
The Sikorsky-76 chopper came down in fog in the Calabasas mountains northwest of Los Angeles.
A month after the deadly crash, Vanessa, claimed the helicopter shouldn't have been flying in such dangerous conditions before the aircraft's death plunge.
Vanessa hit the chopper company with a lawsuit for "reckless" flying.
The families of the other victims have since joined Vanessa in suing the company that operated the helicopter. The helicopter company has countersued two air traffic controllers. Vanessa has sued Los Angeles County and its sheriff's department. And she has been separately sued by her mother.
All told, the tangential legal fallout includes at least nine cases in state or federal court and at least 35 listed attorneys from a dozen firms – plus the U.S. Department of Justice, USA Today reports.
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