Helicopter tragedy: LA County agrees to pay Chester family additional $5M

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed unanimously Tuesday to pay an additional $4.95 million to the family of Sarah Chester and her 13-year-old daughter Payton, who died in the helicopter crash that also killed Laker legend Kobe Bryant, over gruesome crash scene cell phone photos snapped by first responders.

The settlement, approved during a closed-session meeting of the board, is on top of the $15 million in damages awarded to the Chester family by a federal court jury on Aug. 24. Bryant's widow, Vanessa, was also awarded $15 million in damages.

According to Mira Hashmall, an outside attorney representing the county in the litigation, the additional money approved by the board Tuesday "resolves all outstanding issues relating to the pending state claims, future claims by the Chester children, attorneys' fees and costs. We sincerely hope this settlement will help Mr. Chester and his children move forward with their lives."

Hashmall said the county believes the overall $19.5 million resolution with the Chester family is "fair and reasonable to all concerned."


The agreement approved Tuesday applies only to the Chester family. It remained unclear if Vanessa Bryant still intends to pursue her state claims of invasion of privacy stemming from the photos taken at the crash scene.

Sarah Chester's husband, Chris, and the Chester family sued the county over the personal photos snapped by sheriff's deputies and county firefighters at the scene of the January 2020, crash in Chatsworth that killed nine people, including Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.

Attorneys for Chester and Vanessa Bryant argued during the trial that the plaintiffs suffered emotional pain and suffering after learning that personal photos of human remains at the crash scene were snapped and displayed for no good reason to a bartender, attendees of an awards ceremony and sent by a sheriff's deputy to a colleague while they were playing a video game.

The county did not dispute that some photos were shared with a small number of deputies and firefighters. But defense attorneys maintained that all images taken by first responders were destroyed on orders of the sheriff and fire chief, and no longer exist in any form. The photos never entered the public domain or appeared on the internet, the county insisted.

Along with Chester and Bryant's loved ones, the crash killed Alyssa Altobelli, 14; Keri Altobelli, 46; John Altobelli, 56; Christina Mauser, 38; and pilot Ara Zobayan, 50.

Two other families separately settled with the county over the photos for $1.25 million each. All of the victims' families reached a settlement with the helicopter company over the crash, but those terms remain confidential.