Los Angeles fire supervisors knew sharing graphic pictures of the 2020 helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna and seven others would land them in trouble, according to an LACFD official.
Sky Cornell, a public information officer for the LA County Fire Department, told a jury on Thursday (18 August) that the photos were dubbed 'plutonium' by colleague Tony Imbrenda, who shared the sensitive image at a journalism awards gala, and were ordered to be ‘gotten rid of’.
The fire official, who had admitted to investigators that he 'wanted to see Kobe' as the pictures were being shared, reportedly said an official warned the department about what they were doing.
According to Cornell, the email read: “Just a reminder folks, there are no secrets! One way or another people get exposed.”
Imbrenda admitted to sharing pictures of the helicopter crash during the 2020 Golden Mike awards ceremony in Southern California while on the stand on Wednesday (17 August).
Cornell claimed it was at the gala that he first saw the photos, none of which showed the late NBA star’s body but did depict other human remains.
Commenting that it wasn’t the appropriate setting to share the graphic images, the firefighter claimed they were used as a 'training' opportunity.
Joining Cornell on the stand was fellow LACFD official Arlin Kahan who said he took the photos of the crash before sending them to Imbrenda, who he described as 'the one who controls the photos.'
Kahan claimed his photos were intended to document the scene of the crash, not to take photos of human remains.
However, Vanessa Bryant's attorney refuted the claim and alleged the fire captain took the photos of the crash for documentation purposes, not Kahan.
According to Insider, Bryant’s attorney said: “You weren't even a first responder”.
Bryant's widow Vanessa filed her lawsuit against Los Angeles County in September 2020, a few months after the helicopter crash, claiming first responders had photographed and shared images of the sports star and the 13-year-old after they were killed.
The lawsuit claimed 'sheriff's deputies, firefighters, and members of the public' had 'gawked' at the gratuitous images, adding: "[Vanessa] lives in fear that she or her children will one day confront horrific images of their loved ones online."
After Vanessa filed her lawsuit, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an invasion-of-privacy bill making it illegal for first responders to share photos of a dead person at a crime scene 'for any purpose other than an official law enforcement purpose'.
If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677