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Video Hoaxes Spreading False News About Kobe Bryant's Family

Gettyimages | Christian Petersen
By Michael Howard

As Facebook and other tech companies come under increased pressure to remove false news stories and advertisements from their platforms, two hoaxes regarding the recent deaths of NBA star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter have been circulating online.

As Snopes reports, the first of these hoaxes emerged just days after Bryant and his daughter were killed in a helicopter crash. Presented in the form of a video news report, it stated falsely that Bryant’s wife had committed suicide following the January 26 crash.

Weeks later a nearly-identical video appeared on the internet, this one claiming that one of Bryant’s surviving daughters, Natalia, had committed suicide. The video featured the BBC News logo and used edited clips from real news reports to enhance its credibility.

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Video gained traction on social media

Gettyimages | Harry How

Uploaded onto websites with names like w0rldnews.g0ldenbuzzers.com and t0pstories.caldomns.com, the video was shared widely across various social media platforms.

Like the previous video about Bryant’s wife, the new one about his daughter is fraudulent. As Snopes clarifies, “No genuine news outlets have reported on Natalia Bryant’s alleged death. Furthermore, Natalia’s mother, Vanessa, has made no such announcements on her social media pages."

The fact-checking site adds:

“Natalia Bryant did not die by suicide in February 2020. This is just another death hoax aimed at exploiting a tragedy.”

Details of the crash

Gettyimages | HeliRy

Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other people were killed on January 26 when their S76 helicopter crashed into a mountain in Calabasas, California. Multiple investigations have been launched into the accident, but efforts to reach a definitive conclusion have been hindered by the fact that the aircraft did not contain a black box.

The helicopter’s pilot had obtained permission to fly in spite of dangerous conditions caused by low clouds and poor visibility.

As the aircraft made its way toward Bryant's Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks, the pilot asked air traffic control if he could enter controlled airspace, citing heavy fog. Minutes later he requested radar assistance and stated they were climbing 2,300 feet to clear a layer of clouds. The helicopter crashed shortly thereafter.

Pilot was certified and experienced

Wikimedia | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kobe_Bryant_(2015).jpg

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, “At the time of the accident, the automated surface observing system (as augmented by ATC) at VNY, located about 11 nautical miles east-northeast of the accident site at an elevation of about 800 feet, reported a calm wind, visibility of 2.5 statute miles in haze and an overcast ceiling of 1,100 feet above ground level.”

The 50-year-old pilot had a commercial flying certificate from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Popular Science reports. The FAA had also issued him an instructor certificate for flight, instrument, and ground instruction. He had more than 8,000 of flight experience, including 1,250 hours flying the S76 helicopter.

Hundreds leave flowers on wrong grave

Wikimedia | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kobe_Bryant_(49448585947).jpg

People all over the world continue to mourn Bryant’s sudden death. But many of them are visiting the wrong gravesite.

USA Today reported Wednesday that hundreds of people are leaving flowers at a plot in Pacific View Memorial Park that has no relation to Kobe Bryant.

“We can confirm that is not Kobe and Gianna’s resting place,” said a representative for the company that owns the cemetery. “We cannot divulge any additional details as to where they are. But we can tell you that is not the correct location.”

The cemetery has been forced to bolster its security to deal with the droves of people coming in to search for Bryant’s grave.

“Just a lot of people coming wandering the cemetery and looking to see if they can locate the burial site,” the representative said. “They’re just having to monitor things that are going on there.”

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