“I feel scared all the time, every day,” he told the court.
Chester is the plaintiff involved in a federal civil lawsuit with Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, alleging that Los Angeles County invaded their privacy and failed to fully contain the spread of the photos, causing emotional distress.
His wife, Sarah Chester, 13-year-old daughter Payton, and seven others, including Kobe and Gianna Bryant, were traveling to attend a girls’ basketball game at the Bryant Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks on January 26, 2020, when the helicopter was carrying divers into a cliff Hill in Calabasas, leaving no survivors.
Vanessa Bryant is scheduled to testify on Friday morning.
The trial has so far seen testimonies from several law enforcement officials, including a deputy who testified that he showed graphic images from the scene while in a bar, another deputy who said he shared the photos while playing a video game, and a deputy who sent dozens of photos. To someone he didn’t know and a firefighter showing the photos to other people during the award ceremony cocktail hour.
Chester’s turn on the platform came several days after those officials testified – some of them offered an apology, detailed the graphic nature of the images, and explained why they had been taken and shared as well as why orders had been given to remove them.
A former deputy testified that he shared dozens of photos of dead bodies on the day of the accident with someone he didn’t know but believed to be a fire supervisor.
More than two years after the accident, the Los Angeles County Fire Department still doesn’t know if this person was there, whether he had any photos or how many photos he received, said William McCloud, deputy chief of the Los Angeles Fire Department. testified on Thursday.
“The discrepancies and the level of uncertainty, it’s very clear to me that we have no idea how big the images are,” McCloud said of the other testimonies he’s heard so far. There was no clear explanation for what happened.”
Chester told the court that it was “very concerning” that “a mysterious person out there” was dropping the photos from the air.
“Let’s all pray that this person doesn’t exist but this uncertainty — Vanessa and I have to live with that forever,” he said.
“I told them I would see them that night.”
On Thursday, Chester described the morning his wife and daughter departed for the helicopter flight. “I kissed Sarah and told them I would see them that night,” he said.
That was the last time they spoke. Chester said, “I’m thankful every day that I gave her a kiss and said ‘I love you’.”
Chris and Sarah Chester met in college and married soon after, eventually having three children: twins and Peyton.
Chester said he usually received regular text updates from his wife, but that morning, he had not heard from her about the safe landing and his messages had not been answered.
Chester told the court that he was at a lacrosse game for his twin sons in Orange County when he learned of the helicopter crash. He said he called Kobe Bryant’s assistant, who told him they had “lost contact” with the plane.
Now, worried, Chester said, he set off toward Los Angeles County. On the way, news appeared that Kobe Bryant was on board the helicopter that had crashed.
“Lots of things were on my mind but I was hoping to go to the hospital,” Chester said.
He said that Chester was later asked to go to the Lost Hills police station. Chester told the court he arrived at a chaotic scene, with smoke rising from the nearby hills and the station filled with family members. Vanessa Bryant later arrived at the same station in search of answers.
After learning that there were no survivors, Chester said he rushed back to his home in Orange County, fearing for his sons who had seen an article online about the incident while they were in the game.
During that day and night, Chester said he tracked his wife and daughter’s phones using the “Find my iPhone” feature. He said the phones somehow survived the accident, and he could see that it was on the mountain.
Paul Creel Westhead, Chester’s close friend and business partner, also gave an emotional testimony Thursday, describing what it was like seeing his usual “marital” friend wrecked after learning the death of his wife and child.
He described cuddling his friend “shattered” and crying together.
“I’ve never seen him like this,” Westhid told the court, crying. “The eyes were hollow. That first look was cruel.”
Chester was torn on one occasion, also Thursday: when he described a promise he made to his wife at the funeral. He said, “Take care of Payton. You’ve got the boys. I’ll see you again someday.”
The defense seeks to separate the release of photos from the incident
Chester testified that he was confirmed by the coroner’s office that the photographs taken by the coroner had been secured and placed in a vault.
Weeks later, when news broke that MPs had shared photos of the plane crash scene containing human remains, Chester said he felt “initially unbelievable”.
“I couldn’t come up with a scenario in which that could happen,” he added. “It was not fair for this to happen.”
In cross-examination, the county defense sought to separate the photo-sharing issue from the helicopter crash, suggesting that much of Chester’s grief stems from the crash itself.
If the accident hadn’t happened, “we wouldn’t be here,” defense attorney Jason Tokoro said.
“Of course, that would be great,” Chester said.
When the defense asked if the main cause of Chester’s crash was the accident and not the photos, he said the accident caused a “empty and sad feeling” but that his reaction to the spread of the photos “evoked a bit of outrage. . . ” He said he felt the grief exacerbated with grief, and that emotional distress The extra need not happen.
The defense also sparked Chester’s initial outcry over media reports that a MP had shared photos of the crash scene in a pub to impress a woman.
“It turns out that’s not true, is it?” asked Tokoro. Chester agreed.
The lawyer was referring to a deputy mayor who testified earlier this week that he showed photos of the scene to a waiter whom he considered a friend.
Tokoro also noted that Chester had never seen any boycott photos online and had not hired anyone to investigate their existence.
The defense also sought to mitigate the level of emotional distress Chester was experiencing over the images by stating that he had never sought treatment and had never gone to a doctor to seek treatment.
“It’s not that I don’t have dark moments when I’m alone in the car or in the bathroom,” Chester replied.
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