During the Radio and Television News Association of Southern California’s Golden Mike Awards in February 2020, the wife of Los Angeles firefighter and former emergency medical technician, Luella Weireter, testified in court Friday that she shared photos of the remains of LA County Firefighter Tony Imprenta Bryant. and other images from the crash site with ceremony participants.
A large number of firefighters attended the event to honor fire department public information officers who work to inform the public about wildfires.
“I couldn’t believe it. I saw Kobe’s charred body, and now I’m going to eat,” he testified about a firefighter breaking away from the group in what Weirator characterized as a party trick after a small group at his table were able to view cellphone pictures.
After that comment, Vanessa Bryant was seen in the courtroom with her head in her hands, rocking back and forth and crying.
Weirator is a cousin of Kerry Altobelli, who died in a helicopter crash with her husband, John, and daughter, Alyssa.
About two weeks after the awards ceremony, Weireter went to a county fire station in Malibu and filed an official complaint with a battalion chief, he testified. That same day, LA County Fire Chief Anthony Marone called her to follow up.
Vanessa Bryant left court Thursday afternoon during testimony describing photos taken at the scene of the crash. Victor Gutierrez, a bartender, became emotional when asked if he had seen the body of his daughter, Gianna Bryant, in the pictures. Gutierrez was describing what he saw in photos a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy showed him at a bar earlier in the day.
Bryant cried, stood up and his attorney asked the presiding judge for permission for Bryant to leave the courtroom.
Bryant did not return for the rest of Gutierrez’s testimony until Jan. 28, 2020, two days after the accident and a month before the awards ceremony. Gutierrez described being amused by the photos and later admitted to telling five sets of people the positions of the victims’ bodies.
The trial is expected to last about two weeks and witnesses will include Vanessa Bryant and LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. The lawsuit, filed in September 2020, seeks undisclosed damages and claims 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, a TV producer at 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 Wolff contributed to this report.