Trial was launched on Wednesday for a federal civil lawsuit filed by Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, alleging photos of the January 2020 crash were shared by county fire officials and sheriffs in institutions irrelevant to the investigation. , also in a bar.
Former emergency medical technician and wife of a Los Angeles firefighter, Luella Weireter, testified in court Friday that at the Radio and Television News Association of Southern California’s Golden Mike awards in February 2020, LA County firefighter Tony Imbrenda saw sharing photos of Bryant’s remains. and other images of the crash site with those attending the ceremony.
Many firefighters attended the media event, which also honored firefighters for their work educating the public about wildfires.
After a small group of people gathered at her table to watch footage on a cell phone, in what Weireter described as a party trick, she testified that she saw a firefighter escape from the group, saying, “I can’t believe I just looked at Kobe’s burnt body and now I’m about to eat.”
After that comment, Vanessa Bryant was seen in court with her head in her hands, rocking back and forth, crying.
Weireter is the nephew of Keri Altobelli, who also died in the helicopter crash along with her husband John and daughter Alyssa.
About two weeks after the award ceremony, Weireter drove to a provincial fire station in Malibu and filed an official complaint with a battalion chief, she testified. That same day, LA County Fire Chief Anthony Marrone called her.
On Thursday afternoon, Vanessa Bryant walked out of court during a testimony detailing photos taken at the crash site. She became emotional when Victor Gutierrez, a bartender, was asked if he had seen the body of her daughter, Gianna Bryant, in the footage. Gutierrez had previously described what he saw in the photos shown by a Los Angeles County sheriff at a bar.
Bryant wept, stood up, and her attorney asked the presiding judge for permission to leave the courtroom.
Bryant did not return for the remainder of Gutierrez’s testimony, which continued with a series of surveillance clips of the bar where he worked on January 28, 2020 — two days after the crash and a month before the awards ceremony. Gutierrez described how he shuddered at the photos and then admitted to telling five groups of people the condition of the victims’ bodies.
The trial is expected to last about two weeks and witnesses are likely to be Vanessa Bryant and LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. The lawsuit, filed in September 2020, seeks undisclosed damages, alleging civil rights violations, negligence, emotional distress and invasion of privacy.
A jury of six women and four men was selected for the case. They include a nun, someone who works in TV production for NBC Universal, a college student, a real estate investor, a pharmaceutical researcher, a computer science professor, and a restaurant host.
Jason Kravarik, Natasha Chen, Amir Vera and Elizabeth Wolfe contributed to this report.