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Before internet had Kobe Bryant death news, San Antonio’s fire chief had news confirmed in personal phone call

San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood. Photo: City of San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — When San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood heard about Kobe Bryant’s death in Sunday’s helicopter crash in Southern California, he wasn’t sure whether to believe it or not.

But all he had to do was call the Los Angeles County fire chief, Daryl Osby, just as a call between friends, who confirmed the tragic news that Bryant was dead before the Los Angeles area chief firefighter even got to the scene himself.

Los Angeles area public safety officials give media outlets like TMZ a tongue-lashing for reporting Kobe Bryant’s death before the family was notified.  However, some officials were more than willing to discuss matters in this case openly outside of their departments before even getting to the scene.

Hood talked about how he found out about Bryant’s death with ESPN San Antonio’s The Blitz hosts Rob Thompson and Jason Minnix Monday afternoon.

“The way I found out [Sunday] — my oldest son, Kevin, was in Los Angeles and I was getting ready to walk into a movie and he called me,” Hood recounted.  “And he was so emotional, it’s like, ‘Dude, what’s going on?’  He said, ‘Dad, Kobe just died.’ And I said, ‘No way,’ he said, ‘Yeah, he just died.’  And so I go on the internet and I’m looking, I can’t find anything.  So, the L.A. County fire chief is one of my best friends, so I call him.  I said, ‘Hey, man, is Kobe dead in the helicopter crash?’  And he said, ‘Yeah,’ he said, ‘I’m on my way there now.'”

Hood explained to the hosts that his son has been a longtime Kobe Bryant fan.  He said Bryant even gave his son a high-five when they were sitting behind the Lakers bench at one of their games against the Spurs.

Minnix asked the chief about the complaints by officials like Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva over how media outlets like TMZ broke the news before the families affected had been notified.

At a Sunday news conference, long after multiple media outlets were reporting sources told them Bryant was among the victims, Villanueva took an apparent shot at TMZ for releasing the names of those on the helicopter.

“There was wide speculation as to who their identities are, however it would be entirely inappropriate right now to identify anyone by name, until the coroner has made the identification through their very deliberative process, and until they’ve made notifications to next of kin,” Villanueva said.  “It would be extremely disrespectful to understand that your loved ones perished and you learned about it from TMZ.  That is just wholly inappropriate. So we’re not going to be going there.”

Hood compared the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash to a small plane crash on San Antonio’s north side that happened on December 1st.  In that case, they waited to publicly share the identifications of the people involved in that crash.

The first thing they look at at a scene like that is the flight manifest to see who was on board.

“We’re not telling the media… and we’re going to let the coroner — everybody make the positive identifications and then the word is coming out,” Hood explained to the sport talk hosts.  “We get pressure a lot of times with the media where we know who [the victims] are.  Yeah, we know who they are, but I don’t want their loved one to find out in the news without somebody being there for them.”

The fire chief credited the whole media corps in San Antonio for having a good relationship and understanding of these situations with him and public safety in general.

“But as a public safety person, we are not going to give that information out.  Ever.”

The sports hosts had pondered on the air before chatting with Hood about the possibility of some first responders may have leaked the details.

The fire chief poo-pooed that theory, saying that at least on the fire department side of things, crews don’t know much about a situation other than what the immediate issue is.  In the Kobe Bryant case, Hood said the crews initially thought they were going to a brush fire call and learned it was an aircraft crash instead.


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