learned of the death of her husband Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna through social media, according to court documents from a recent deposition obtained by PEOPLE. The 39-year-old filed a legal complaint against Los Angeles County last year,
claiming that leaked photos of the site of Kobe and Gianna’s fatal helicopter crash in January 2020 caused emotional distress. On Oct. 12, Vanessa detailed the moments she learned of the crash in a deposition for the lawsuit.
She said she was initially notified by her family’s assistant that there was “an accident” involving Kobe and Gianna’s helicopter “and that there were five survivors. After attempting to call her husband and getting her mom to babysit her two youngest children, Vanessa said, “I was holding onto my phone, because obviously I was trying to call my husband back, and all these notifications started popping up on my phone, saying ‘RIP Kobe. RIP Kobe. RIP Kobe.’ “Hoping to get to the Calabasas crash site, Vanessa attempted to charter a helicopter but was denied due to weather conditions. Ultimately, she was told to report to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
She said she eventually received confirmation of Kobe and Gianna’s deaths — and all seven others aboard the helicopter — from Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva hours later, after previously asking officers at the sheriff’s department for an update with no response. In the deposition, Vanessa also detailed her request to have “the [crash] area be designated a no-fly zone and protected from photographers.” “And I said, ‘If you can’t bring my husband and baby back, please make sure that no one takes photographs of them. Please secure the area,’ ” Vanessa claimed she told Villanueva. Vanessa’s previous court filing detailed that despite her request, “photos of the remains quickly spread within the Sheriff’s Department as deputies transmitted them to one another via text message and AirDrop. Within forty-eight hours, at least 10 members of the Sheriff’s Department obtained photos of the victims’ remains on their personal cell phones despite having no legitimate governmental use of the photos.”
During the deposition, Vanessa was asked to explain how she experienced “emotional distress” from the situation. “The impact of the helicopter crash was so damaging, I just don’t understand how someone can have no regard for life and compassion, and, instead, choose to take that opportunity to photograph lifeless and helpless individuals for their own sick amusement,” Vanessa said, emphasizing her desire for “accountability.” “My life will never be the same without my husband and daughter,” she continued, according to the transcript, also noting that she has since tried to “avoid social media and reading comments” about Kobe and Gianna.
Vanessa has listed several witnesses to further detail her emotional distress in upcoming individual depositions, per The New York Times. Witnesses include Ciara, La La Anthony, Monica, Sharia Washington (Kobe’s sister), and Catherine Gasol, wife of NBA star Pau Gasol.