CALABASAS (KRON) – Following the news that NBA legend and icon Kobe Bryant along with 8 others was killed in a helicopter crash Sunday, local authorities held a press conference to address the tragedy.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva addressed reporters Sunday afternoon, saying there were believed to be 9 people on board the helicopter that crashed, contrary to earlier media reports that said there were 5 people on board.
The sheriff also refused to identify any of the victims by name.
“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,” he added. “That is just wholly inappropriate. So we’re not going to be going there.”
Los Angeles County Undersheriff Tim Murakami also took a dig at TMZ in a tweet.
“I am saddened that I was gathering facts as a media outlet reported … Kobe had passed,” Murakami tweeted. “I understand getting the scoop but please allow us time to make personal notifications to their loved ones. It’s very cold to hear of the loss via media. Breaks my heart.”
TMZ was the first to report Bryant’s death, publishing their story just before 11:30 a.m. PST.
CNN reports TMZ has been at the forefront when it comes to being first in reporting celebrity deaths.
TMZ was the first to report Michael Jackson’s death in 2009; Whitney Houston’s death in 2012; and Prince’s death in 2016.
“When it comes to high-profile people, they have an ‘in’ with the kinds of people who know this information,” Matthew Belloni, the editorial director of The Hollywood Reporter, told CNN Sunday.
Belloni added, “If TMZ reports that a celebrity has died in Los Angeles County, it is almost always correct. For whatever reason, and you can read into this, their accuracy rate in Los Angeles is very, very good.”
Since it was launched in 2005, TMZ has reportedly developed a large base of tipsters including court officials and entertainment lawyers.
According to a 2016 profile in The New Yorker, TMZ sometimes compensates its tipsters, which is something most newsrooms do not.