Los Angeles firefighters knew sharing graphic images of the crash that killed NBA star Kobe Bryant would get them in trouble as they were nicknamed “plutonium” and needed to be disposed of.
Sky Cornell, a public information officer for the LA County Fire Department, told a jury on Tuesday that first responders had done some damage control after it became public knowledge that they had shared photos of the helicopter crash that killed Bryant, 41, and his daughter, Gianna, 13, in 2020.
Cornell, who admitted to investigators he “wanted to see Kobe” while the photos were being shared, said an official tipped off the department what he was doing, TMZ reported.
‘Just a reminder folks, there are no secrets! One way or another, people are exposed,’ the email reads, according to Cornell.
He added that his colleague Tony Imbrenda, who admitted sharing the photos at an awards gala, called the photos “plutonium” and that he should “get rid of them”.
Sky Cornell, a public information officer for the LA County Fire Department, said an official sent an email warning them to share photos of the crash that killed Kobe Bryant.
Imbrenda, another public information officer, was grilled on Wednesday as he testified that he shared photos of the helicopter crash at the 2020 Golden Mike Awards, an awards gala of journalism in Southern California.
Cornell claimed that was when he first encountered the photos, none of which showed Bryant’s body but depicted other human remains.
Cornell told the court on Thursday that while the setting was not appropriate for sharing the graphic images, he claimed they were being used as a “training” opportunity.
Arlin Kahan, another fire official, also testified Thursday. He said he was the person who took the first photos of the accident and sent them to Imbrenda, whom Kahan described as “the one who controls the photos”.
Kahan claimed that his photos were intended to document the crash scene, not to take photos of human remains.
The widow’s attorney Vanessa Bryant refuted the claim, suggesting that it was a fire captain who took the crash photos for documentation purposes, not Kahan.
“You weren’t even a first responder,” the attorney said, according to Insider.
Kahan also claimed he intended to delete the photos once the investigation was completed.
It’s the latest in the lawsuit after Vanessa filed a lawsuit against the LA County Fire Department and the Sheriff’s Office for invasion of privacy after footage of the crash was shared by officers.
Fellow public information officer Tony Imbrenda (pictured) admitted sharing photos of the crash at an awards ceremony in 2020. He called the photos ‘plutonium
Earlier this week, LA Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Russell revealed he sent photos of the wreckage to Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Deputy Ben Sanchez a day after the incident.
Russell said he was playing the popular Call of Duty shooter with Sanchez when he told the deputy he had crime scene photos he allegedly got from his fellow deputy in Los Angeles, Joey Cruz, TMZ reported.
During his testimony, Russell also admitted to making mistakes when he initially told investigators that he shared the photos while working and that the images did not depict bodily remains.
“I made mistakes,” he told the court, adding that he had received no disciplinary action for sharing the graphic photos.
Cruz also testified on Tuesday, admitting that he showed photos of the accident to a bartender to “relieve the stress” he was facing because of the case.
On Monday, Brian Jordan, a retired Los Angeles County firefighter, claimed he was ordered by his superiors to take photos of the helicopter crash site – orders that fire chiefs deny having ever issued.
Jordan denied sending the footage to anyone outside of the sheriff or fire department, but at times seemed confused about the events.
Brian Jordan, a retired LA County firefighter, claimed his superiors ordered him to take photos of the site of the fatal helicopter crash (pictured)
Jordan denied sending the footage to anyone outside of sheriff or fire departments
The former firefighter has repeatedly told the court that he doesn’t “really remember being at the accident” and doesn’t “remember what was up there”.
Luis Li, Vanessa’s attorney, asked why the laptop he handed over was missing a hard drive, and Jordan replied that he was unaware of what had happened.
“I have no idea,” Jordan said, but added, “I didn’t handle any device.”
When asked if he photographed the body of Gianna Bryant, he replied, according to Law and Crime: “I don’t even know who it is.”
He added: “I don’t know what I was photographing. I am here because of false allegations so please refrain from dragging my brain back to this accident.
During his two-hour testimony, Jordan asked to be excused from the witness stand three times, citing emotional trauma.
Brian Jordan, a retired firefighter, is seen testifying in Los Angeles on Monday about photos he took of the crash site in Calabasas. We left the stand three times
Vanessa Bryant (right) has filed a lawsuit seeking unspecified damages from the fire department and the sheriff’s office for the alleged misconduct
Jordan insisted that Anthony Marrone, then deputy chief, who since August 1 this year has been acting chief, told him to take the pictures.
“He said, ‘Take pictures, take pictures, take pictures,'” Jordan said, and described a stairwell he and Marrone were standing in when the order was given.
Jordan added: “Maybe that’s the only time I should have been insubordinate.” Marrone, in sworn testimony provided in August 2020, denied ordering Jordan to take any photos.
He said he asked everyone not to photograph the crash victims “because taking such pictures would not be fair or appropriate”.
Vanessa Bryant is seeking unspecified damages from the fire department and the sheriff’s office.
The trial is expected to last another week.