Coroner describes what Kobe’s body looked like

Coroner describes what Kobe’s body looked like

  • A coroner testified in Vanessa Bryant’s LA County trial over photos of Kobe helicopter crash sites.
  • Capt. Emily Tauscher provided vivid testimony about the condition of each victim’s body after the crash.
  • She offered a glimpse of the grisly scene that was likely captured and shared in inappropriate crash photos.

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A senior Los Angeles County coroner testified Thursday at length about the condition of Kobe Bryant’s body following the 2020 helicopter crash that killed all nine passengers on board, including the basketball legend and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant.

Day two of Vanessa Bryant’s Los Angeles County trial focused on the testimony of Captain Emily Tauscher, chief investigator at the LA County Coroner’s Office, after the LA Sheriff’s Deputy and LA County Fire Captains shared photos of the Helicopter crash site and shared in late January 2020.

Tauscher painted a grisly picture of the crash site and provided a detailed look at the grisly scene likely captured in the photos taken by the LA County Sheriff’s Deputy and Fire Captains. She also spoke about the coroner’s office’s photo practices and highlighted an ad hoc approach to location photography in the sheriff’s department system that allowed the prohibited photos to be taken and shared.

On January 26, 2020, a helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, the couple’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and baseball coach John Altobelli and his family crashed near Malibu while they were en route to an all-girls basketball game. All nine on board, including pilot Ara Zobayan, died in the crash.

In September 2020, Vanessa Bryant sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the county fire department, the entire county and eight officers following reports that first responders took and shared photos of the January 2020 crash site.

Chris Chester, whose wife Sarah and daughter Peyton died in the crash, is also suing county workers over the same claims at the federal and state levels and will join Bryant in a consolidated 9-day trial against the county.

Tauscher, a key witness for Bryant and Chester, provided exceptionally detailed and vivid testimony about the condition of each victim’s body after the crash and provided the jury with a mental picture of the photographs allegedly taken of the defendants. Both Bryant and Chester left the courtroom before testifying.

Tauscher testified that human remains from the crash were scattered over 500 meters, creating an impact zone larger than two football fields while a magnesium fire from the crash blazed. The majority of the victims had to be scientifically identified because their wounds were so extreme, she said. Kobe Bryant was partially identified by his skin tone and tattoos on his arm, Tauscher testified.

She told the courtroom that the coroner’s office did not ask families to identify their loved ones after the crash because the condition of the remains was so intense and unidentifiable.

“What someone looks like in death is very different than in life,” she said. “Seeing someone you love in that state creates an image that will stay with them forever.”

Tauscher testified that the coroner’s office took about 1,250 photos of the crash site, about 300 of which showed human remains. She also confirmed that the coroner’s office had asked neither LASD nor LACFD to take photos of the remains.

LASD Malibu Search and Rescue team leader David Katz previously testified that LASD Rep. Doug Johnson alone took hundreds of photos with his cellphone.

Bryant’s lawsuit seeks punitive damages from the county defendants. She is suing the county for negligence, emotional distress and violation of privacy and federal claims relating to the constitutional right to the pictures of her deceased loved ones and the LA County agency’s practices that led to the alleged taking and distribution of pictures Photos.