BBC News Apologizes For Big Blunder While Reporting Kobe Bryant's Death

Tragedy struck the sports world in the morning hours of January 26, 2020 when NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, and seven others died in a helicopter crash. According to TMZ, the fatal wreck involving the Bryants occurred when the pilot of the craft, later identified by the Los Angeles Times as Ara Zobayan, attempted to maneuver out of "extremely foggy" conditions. Relying on available flight data at the time of its report, TMZ claimed that the helicopter was traveling "at about 161 knots" when its pilot attempted a rapid climb in altitude, presumably to navigate around the fog. Moments later, the aircraft "flew into a mountain at 1700 feet."

As reports of the tragic news began to break, media outlets scrambled to piece the story together, and as with all fast-breaking (and trending) news, some got it wrong. The BBC's News at Ten was one such outlet, which "showed pictures of another basketball player, LeBron James," during its coverage. According to the BBC's apology piece, "human error which fell below our usual standards on the programme" was to blame for the gaffe. But the imagery used wasn't the only error News at Ten made. According to Yahoo! Entertainment's Last Night Now, which captured a pre-recorded video segment from the same program, a reporter for the outlet claimed that Bryant's "playing career was cut short by injuries." However, in his own words regarding his decision (via CBS Sports), Bryant said, "Finally I just had to accept that I don't want to do this anymore."

Unfortunately, the blunders in reporting on Bryant's death were also shared across the pond.

The BBC wasn't the only outlet that jumped the gun

On the night of Kobe Bryant's fatal crash, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva stated the difficulty of his department's efforts to even reach the crash site. In a press conference (via CNN), Villanueva cited the rough terrain in which the helicopter went down, and called the recovery efforts "a logistical nightmare." Following recovery of the crash site, the "next priority" is "identification and notification of the families," according to Los Angeles County Coroner Dr. Jonathan Lucas, who also stressed that process could take "a couple of days."

But the 24-hour media cycle doesn't have days to wait, and outlets eager to report on the fatalities started to quickly get things wrong. According to The Washington Post, not only did TMZ break the news of the wreck "before all the families were notified," but Fox News and ABC News also errantly reported on "the number of people killed" and the identities of those "believed to be among the crash victims."

The mistake by ABC News was particularly stark in that on-air reporter Matt Gutman (above) reportedly said (via media watchdog site iMediaEthics), "The fact that four of [Bryant's] children are believed to be on that helicopter with him, all daughters, one of them a newborn..." Of course, it is now known that only one of Bryant's daughters, 13-year-old Gianna Bryant, was on board the fatal flight.

To its credit, ABC News corrected the error on-air, with Gutman stating (again via iMediaEthics), "Earlier I reported that it was believed that four of Kobe's children were on that flight. That is incorrect. Unfortunately this is a horrible tragedy and one of his daughters was on the helicopter at the time. Obviously they're still working this investigation – the NTSB is coming, the FAA is already on scene. The coroner is going to make the final determination of who exactly was on that plane but again, I apologize for those remarks earlier about Kobe's family on that helicopter."